(Photo: Robert F. Bukaty, AP)
Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY
The brothers suspected of setting off deadly bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon two weeks ago appear to have been trained for the attacks, and their mother may have information that could help investigators determine a motive, a key lawmaker said Sunday.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News Sunday that he thinks Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of suspected bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, played "a very strong role" in her sons' embrace of religious extremism. Should she return to the United States from Russia, she would be held for questioning, he said.
Tsarnaeva, who moved from the Boston area back to Russia a few years ago, has denied that she or her sons were involved and says her sons have been framed.
The Tsarnaev brothers -- Tamerlan, 26, and Dzhokhar, 19, -- are suspects in the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260 people. Tamerlan was killed a few days later during a shootout with police. Dzhokhar, who was hospitalized after being captured while hiding in a boat, is being housed in a small cell in a federal medical detention center in Ayer, Mass., about 40 miles outside of Boston.
On Saturday, U.S. officials told the Associated Press that Russian authorities had secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 between Zubeidat Tsarnaeva and her oldest son in which the two vaguely discussed jihad.
The officials spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. The FBI, the Russian internal security service FSB and the CIA declined comment.
Authorities have said they have seen no connection between the brothers and a foreign terrorist group. Dzhokar told FBI interrogators that he and his brother were angry over wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the deaths of Muslim civilians there.
In other developments:
•Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the surviving bombing suspect, was moved to the medical detention center, where his cell has a solid steel door with an observation window and a slot for passing food and medication, a federal official told the Associated Press.
•Ruslan Tsarni, an uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers and Zubeidat's former brother-in-law, said he believes the mother had a "big-time influence" as her older son increasingly embraced his Muslim faith and decided to quit boxing and college.
•Anzor Tsarnaev, the brothers' father, told the Associated Press Sunday that he is delaying plans to travel from Russia to the United States because he is "really sick." He had earlier said he wants to see his younger son and bury his older son.
Contributing: Associated Press