William Plotnikov is a new figure that emerged in the story of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s conversion to violent extremist Islam.
Nicknamed “The Canadian”, William Plotnikov was a 23-year-old boxer from Canada who Tamerlan Tsarnaev met online and may have visited during his trip to Russia last year.
William Plotnikov, a Muslim convert from Toronto, could have spurred Tamerlan Tsarnaev to direct his against the US, new reports reveal.
The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Dagestan – a Russia republic torn by jihadist terrorism – to join an Islamic militia and fight against Russian forces in July 2012.
One day after William Plotnikov was killed by Russian security forces, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fled to Moscow. The next day he was back to the United States.
Another contact Tamerlan Tsarnaev had in Dagestan – Makhmud Mansur Nidal, 19 – was also killed by Russian forces during his six-month visit to the war-torn region.
Novaya Gazeta suggests William Plotnikov may have turned Tamerlan Tsarnaev against the United States.
“It seems that Tamerlan Tsarnaev came to Dagestan with the aim of joining the insurgents. It didn’t work out..,” a security source told the newspaper.
“After Nidal and Plotnikov were destroyed and he lost his contacts, Tsarnaev got frightened and fled.”
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s parents moved them to the US from the troubled Dagestan region years ago.
The similarities between William Plotnikov – who was called “The Canadian” by the other militiamen – and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are uncanny.
Both men were competitive boxers as teenagers. Both seemed to have suddenly turned to radical Islam in 2009 and quickly became interested in violent jihad being waged in Dagestan – where Islamic militias are targeting the moderate Sufi Muslims and fighting Russian security forces who control the region.
Both were born in Russian republics and later moved to the West, where they struggled to fit in.
It is unknown whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev and William Plotnikov ever met in person.
At one point, Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited his aunt in Toronto – the same city where Plotnikov lived with his parents.
William Plotnikov seized and interviewed by Russian authorities in 2010. At that time told them that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was one of the people he communicated with online.
Novaya Gazeta reports that the two communicated via a site associated with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a non-governmental organization.
William Plotnikov was then released by the Russians and went on to join an Islamic militia and take up arms against Russian security forces in Dagestan.
In February 2012, Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Dagestan.
Novaya Gazeta reports that he was seen “more than once” by Russian intelligence units with Makhmud Mansur Nidal, 19, a half-Palestinian Dagestani who is believed responsible for a twin bomb attack in the capital Makhachkala that killed 13 people.