The mysterious Misha, identified as Mikhail Allakhverdov and thought to be the missing link in explaining the radicalization of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, has broken his silence to speak out from his home in Rhode Island on Sunday.
Accused by members of the Tsarnaev family of being the mastermind behind the Boston Marathon attacks which killed three and injured over 280 people, Mikhail Allakhverdov has come forward in hope of setting the record straight.
Frenzied speculation surrounded his role in April 15th’s attacks, with some asking whether “Misha” was part of a wider terror cell or incredibly, if he was a Russian mole – sent to spy on Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
His very absence from the investigation fueled the conspiracy theories – but now he has come forward to declare himself innocent and that crucially the FBI do not believe he had any part in the bombings.
Christian Caryl from the New York Review of Books tracked down Mikhail Allakhverdov to his family home in Rhode Island – to a lower middle class neighborhood.
The meeting between Christian Caryl and Mikhail Allakhverdov confirms right away that he does have the widely reported distinguishing reddish beard mentioned by members of the Tsarnaev family.
Living with his parents in a tidy apartment, Mikhail Allakhverdov flat out denied any part in Tamerlan, 26 and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s murderous attacks.
Confirming he is indeed a convert to Islam, Misha said he did know Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2009 as he spoke to Christian Caryl in Russian.
“I wasn’t his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this,” Mikhail Allakhverdov said to the New York Review of Books.
Mikhail Allakhverdov, 39, is of Armenian-Ukrainian descent and lives with an American girlfriend with his elderly parents.
His father is an Armenian Christian and his mother is an ethnic Ukrainian.
Speaking to the New York Review of Books, Mikhail Allakhverdov’s father said: “We love this country. We never expected anything like this to happen to us.”
Mikhail Allakhverdov confirmed to the New York Review of Books that he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2009 when he lived in Boston but none in the years since.
He declined to elaborate on his relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and how he became friends – but would not say why he ceased speaking to the Boston bomber.
However, Misha denied that he had ever met any of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family – which contradicts their claims that he would be seen discussing Islam with the elder Tsarnaev brother late at night at the family’s kitchen table.
He also confirmed he had been interviewed by the FBI and that he has cooperated with the investigation:
“I’ve been cooperating entirely with the FBI. I gave them my computer and my phone and everything I wanted to show I haven’t done anything. And they said they are about to return them to me.
“And the agents who talked told me they are about to close my case.”
An FBI spokesman in Boston declined to comment on an ongoing case – but confirms recent reports that “Misha” is not thought to be connected to the bombings.
Accused by Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, of radicalizing his nephew, Mikhail Allakhverdov became known only by the name “Misha” as wild speculation grew as to his identity or even if he was real.
“It started in 2009. And it started right there, in Cambridge,” Ruslan Tsarni told CNN after the attacks.
“This person just took his brain. He just brainwashed him completely.”
On Friday the FBI revealed that they now know the identity of the American known as Misha who helped radicalize the Boston bombing suspects.
Family members of dead bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev have described Misha as the guiding influence in the elder bomber developing radicalized views.
Speculation as to who Misha is has varied wildly in the past week, with some suggesting he is the mastermind behind the marathon bombings while others believe he could be a Russian spy – sent to identify and keep tabs on young men like Tamerlan Tsarnaev who are at risk of turning to militant Islam.
Up till Sunday all that was known about Misha is that he is an Armenian man in his 30s with distinctive red beard and that he has disappeared – no longer living in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area.
However, before Sunday’s revelations family members had been telling reporters that in the years before the Boston marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, fell under the strong influence of a new friend, a Christian who converted to Islam and who steered the religiously apathetic young man towards adopting strong Islamic views.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a police shootout four days after the bombings on April 15th.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was charged last Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, and he could face the death penalty if convicted.
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.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.
According to Ruslan, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s radicalization happened right under the nose of his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva.