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WORLD BRIEFLY: Family says bomb suspect was pushed to radical Islam

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 9:03 p.m. CDT; updated 10:27 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Here are today's top nation and world news stories from The Associated Press.

Bomb suspect influenced by mysterious radical Islamic convert, family says

WASHINGTON — In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.

Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.

"Somehow, he just took his brain," said Tamerlan's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan's worried father about Misha's influence. Efforts over several days by The Associated Press to identify and interview Misha have been unsuccessful.

Tamerlan's relationship with Misha could be a clue in understanding the motives behind his religious transformation and, ultimately, the attack itself. Two U.S. officials say he had no tie to terrorist groups.

Throughout his religious makeover, Tamerlan maintained a strong influence over his siblings, including Dzhokhar, who investigators say carried out the deadly attack by his older brother's side, killing three and injuring 264 people.

In pattern of homegrown terrorism, shunned brothers turned to radicalized religion for solace

WASHINGTON — Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sought to embrace American lives after emigrating from Russia — joining a boxing club, winning a scholarship and even seeking U.S. citizenship. But their uncle last week angrily called them "losers" who failed to feel settled even after a decade of living in the United States.

The disparity between the brothers' struggle to assimilate in the U.S. and their alleged bombing of the Boston Marathon reflects what counterterror experts describe as a classic pattern of young first- or second-generation immigrants striking out after struggling to fit in. The U.S. has long been worried about people in America who are not tied to any designated terrorist group but who are motivated by ideologies that lead them to commit violent acts. Some are motivated by radical religious interpretations; others feel ostracized by their communities.

Three U.S. officials involved in the investigation said the brothers had no links to any terrorist groups. After interrogating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday, U.S. officials have concluded, based on a preliminary interrogation and other evidence, that they were motivated by their faith — apparently an anti-American, radical version of Islam. Another official called them aspiring jihadists. All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a police shootout Friday. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, and he could face the death penalty if convicted.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican briefed on the investigation, described the two brothers as "a couple of individuals who become radicalized using Internet sources," but said it was too early to say they had no contact with foreign groups.

Men arrested in Canada terror plot appear in court as Iran denies any links to the case

TORONTO — A suspect accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada said Tuesday that authorities were basing their conclusions on mere appearances. Iran, meanwhile, denied any involvement.

Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received "directions and guidance" from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iran said it had nothing to do with the plot, and groups such as al-Qaida do not share Iran's ideology.

Charges against the two men include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police — tipped off by an imam worried about one of the suspects' behavior — said it was the first known attack planned by al-Qaida in Canada.

In a brief court appearance in Montreal, a bearded Esseghaier declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer. He made a brief statement in French in which he called the allegations against him unfair.

"The conclusions were made based on facts and words which are only appearances," he said in a calm voice after asking permission to speak.

Syrian civil war increasingly drawing in fragile Lebanon amid intense border clashes

BEIRUT — As fighting rages just across the border, Lebanese are giving signs of joining the battle on rival sides of Syria's civil war — Sunnis on the side of the rebels, Shiites on the side of the regime — raising fears that Lebanon with its volatile sectarian divisions will be dragged into the conflict.

Two influential Lebanese Sunni clerics this week called on members of their community to wage "holy war" in Syria to defend their brethren. They accused Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group of sending fighters to attack Syrian Sunnis, who make up the backbone of that country's rebellion.

On Tuesday, around two dozen men lined up in the office of one of the clerics in the southern coastal city of Sidon, signing up to join the jihad.

In recent days, tensions have been fueled by heavy fighting inside Syria close to the border with Lebanon, where regime forces have made strong gains in a campaign to secure a corridor from the capital Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.

The Syrian military has been helped in the fight by Shiite Lebanese fighters who are supported by Hezbollah. The powerful Lebanese militant group says it is not sending fighters but supports the so-called "popular committees" that have joined the fighting to defend their fellow Shiites in Syria.

U.S. hospitals send hundreds of immigrant patients back to home countries to curb cost of care

DES MOINES, Iowa — Days after they were badly hurt in a car accident, Jacinto Cruz and Jose Rodriguez-Saldana lay unconscious in an Iowa hospital while the American health care system weighed what to do with the two immigrants from Mexico.

The men had health insurance from jobs at one of the nation's largest pork producers. But neither had legal permission to live in the U.S., nor was it clear whether their insurance would pay for the long-term rehabilitation they needed.

So Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines took matters into its own hands: After consulting with the patients' families, it quietly loaded the two comatose men onto a private jet that flew them back to Mexico, effectively deporting them without consulting any court or federal agency.

When the men awoke, they were more than 1,800 miles away in a hospital in Veracruz, on the Mexican Gulf Coast.

Hundreds of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have taken similar journeys through a little-known removal system run not by the federal government trying to enforce laws but by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. A recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups made a rare attempt to determine how many people are sent home, concluding that at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period, though there were likely many more.

'Most difficult week of our lives': As Boston mourns, brothers' radicalism comes into focus

BOSTON — The Boston area held funerals for two more of its dead Tuesday — including an 8-year-old boy — as more details emerged from U.S. officials and family members about how the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects may have been swayed by a radical, anti-American strain of Islam.

In Washington, Senate Intelligence Committee member Richard Burr, R-N.C., said after his panel was briefed by federal law enforcement officials that there is "no question" that older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was "the dominant force" behind the attacks, and that the brothers had apparently been radicalized by material on the Internet rather than by contact with militant groups overseas.

Younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's condition was upgraded from serious to fair as investigators continued building their case against the 19-year-old college student. He could face the death penalty after being charged Monday with joining forces with his brother, now dead, in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that killed three people.

Martin Richard, a schoolboy from Boston's Dorchester neighborhood who was the youngest of those killed in the April 15 blasts at the marathon finish line, was laid to rest after a family-only funeral Mass.

"The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous," the family said in a statement. "This has been the most difficult week of our lives."

Car bomb at French Embassy in Libyan capital wounds 3 in latest sign of deepening lawlessness

TRIPOLI, Libya — A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside the French Embassy in Tripoli, wounding three people and partially setting the building on fire in the worst attack on a diplomatic mission in the North African nation since the U.S. ambassador was killed last year.

The attack in the heart of the capital put new pressure on the Libya's new leaders to rein in the lawlessness that has gripped the country since 2011, when rebels ousted Moammar Gadhafi in a civil war and then refused to lay down their arms.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the militias and the extremists in their ranks that are fighting the central government in Tripoli for control.

Some Libyans blamed Islamic militants seeking to avenge France's military intervention in Mali to dislodge al-Qaida-linked forces from the northern part of the West African country.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. On its official website, the Libyan government denounced such attacks, which it said are "directly targeting Libya's security and stability."

Iraqi raid on Sunni protest camp sparks deadly clashes, intensifying fears of wider unrest

BAGHDAD — Security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on Tuesday, sparking deadly clashes in several towns and sharply intensifying rage at the Shiite-led government. The unrest and a spate of other attacks, mostly targeting Sunni mosques, killed at least 56 people.

The violence could mark an ominous turning point in the four-month Sunni protest movement, which is posing a stubborn challenge to Iraq's stability a decade after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks on three Sunni mosques, and it was unclear if there was any connection to the storming of the protest camp. Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida have in the past targeted moderate Sunnis. But if Shiite militias were behind the attacks, it would raise fears of a return to the open sectarian fighting of 2006 and 2007 when Iraq was on the brink of civil war.

The raid on the protest camp drew harsh condemnations from Sunni leaders and foreign diplomats, and raised fears that Iraq is being pushed back toward all-out sectarian fighting like that fueling civil war in neighboring Syria.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki swiftly announced the formation of a special ministerial committee to investigate what happened, underscoring worries that anger over the incident could spill out of control.

France legalizes same-sex marriage after debate that triggered huge protests

PARIS — France legalized gay marriage Tuesday after a wrenching national debate that has exposed deep conservatism in the nation's heartland and triggered huge protests that tapped into deep discontent with the Socialist government.

Legions of officers with water cannons braced outside the National Assembly for violence that had not come by late evening. The protests against the measure included thousands but were peaceful. Other gatherings were simply celebrations.

But it was an issue that galvanized the country's faltering right, which had been decimated by infighting and their election loss to President Francois Hollande.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.

A day after start of furloughs, airline service improves, but government warns of more problems

NEW YORK — A day after flight delays plagued much of the nation, air travel was smoother Tuesday, but the government warned passengers that the situation could change by the hour as thousands of air-traffic controllers are forced to take furloughs because of budget cuts.

Meanwhile, airlines and members of Congress urged the Federal Aviation Administration to find other ways to reduce spending. Airlines are worried about the long-term costs late flights will have on their budgets and on passengers.

"I just can't imagine this stays in place for an extended period of time. It's just such terrible policy," US Airways CEO Doug Parker said. "We can handle it for a little while, but it can't continue."

The delays are the most visible effect yet of Congress and the White House's failure to agree on a long-term deficit-reduction plan.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said no one should be surprised, noting that he warned about the potential for problems two months ago.


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