Canadian Jihadist Linked to Accused Boston Bomber

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Yesterday, we learned that three friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have assisted him after the attack by disposing of evidence and lying to authorities. If the young men are found guilty, the face five to eight years in prison. Another name has surfaced in connection to the marathon bombing, William Plotnikov was a Russian Canadian. He converted to Islam and joined an islamist insurgency in the Russian republic of Dagestan. Plotnikov was killed there by Russian security forces. Now, there have been reports in the media that Plotnikov may have been in contact with deceased Boston Marathon bomb suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Stewart Bell is covering the story for the National Post. He joins us on the line from Toronto. So Stewart, what is the connection between William Plotnikov and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, if there is any?

Stewart Bell: The connection is that, uh, I mean one, they both have extremely similar trajectories. Both were amateur boxers, uh, immigrants from that part of the world, who apparently became radicalized very quickly, and then went off to that part of the world to Dagestan to pursue that. William Plotnikov was actually detained by the Russian security forces in early 2011, and, uh, during questioning with the Russian FSB security agency, he reportedly named Tsarnaev as one of his online contacts.

Werman: Do you know, Stewart, if they were ever in Dagestan at the same time, and did they ever meet in Dagestan or anywhere else?

Bell: Yeah, well that's another interesting thing about the story is that they were actually in Dagestan at the same time. William Plotnikov went to Dagestan for the second time in late 2011, and joined the, uh, the rebels in the force of eastern Dagestan, and he was there throughout the first half of 2012, until July when he was killed, uh, in a shootout with Russian security forces. Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Dagestan in, uh, January 2012 and was there until July, and actually left, uh, returned to the United States just a few days after William Plotnikov was killed, and there's been some suggestion, I haven't found evidence of this myself, but, some suggestion that he was spooked by the killing of Plotnikov.

Werman: D-Do you know why William Plotnikov w-was killed in this raid?

Bell: Well he was killed because he was, uh, living in the mountains, uh, with a group of, uh, fighters, who were part of this north caucus' movement that's trying to impose this Islamist regime in southern Russia, and they've been doing various,uh, attacks on, especially on Russian forces. There's a video tape that we have on our website that shows the kind of mentality they had. They were talking about jihad, and about killing non-believers, and warning, threatening of attacks against the Russian forces. And the Russians eventually surrounded this compound where they were living, and killed all of those, there were seven of them inside the compound, and, uh, William Plotnikov, the Canadian, was shot in the head during that, that shootout.

Werman: We'll link to that video you were just talking about at And let me ask you a little more about that. So, that video was filmed shortly before William Plotnikov was killed, is that what you're saying?

Bell: The father, when his son was killed, went to Dagestan to try and figure out what had happened, and, uh, to also receive William's body, and to arrange for burial. But, he did that when he was inquiring around about his son. He went to the village where he'd been killed, and, uhm, he was given some photographs of his son and also a video that had been found when he was killed. William had shot this video, I think, probably with his cell phone camera. He narrates it, and he speaks the, the different rebels that are inside this bunker, and then he turns the, uh, the camera on himself and begins to espouse very, very radical views about killing non-believers, and all- it's a very, very much like the al-qaeda type narrative. And I remember watching that video, uh, with the father. And he was just, you could see his face. He was just astounded. And he, he said to me, you know, "That's not my son. I don't, uh, I can't believe that my son is saying these things. Uh, I can't believe how he's changed."

Werman: Stewart Bell, a reporter with Canada's National Post newspaper, speaking with us from his newsroom in Toronto. Stewart, thanks for your time.

Bell: Thank you.