MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan, April 24, 2013— -- The mother of the alleged Boston bombers denied reports that her sons had been radicalized by a mysterious convert to Islam named Misha.
"Nonsense. He was just a friend," Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told ABC News by phone today shortly before she sat down with FBI investigators for a second day of interviews here in the restive region of Dagestan, in southern Russia.
Tsarnaeva said Misha knew a lot about Islam and that it was interesting to learn from him, but denied his views were extreme.
She said their relationship with Misha, an Armenian with a red beard whose identity and full name remain a mystery, was short because he moved to another part of the United States. She did not say where.
The elder brother, Tamerlan, met Misha, possibly at a Boston-area mosque, and the two soon became friends, according to the Associated Press. Misha came to the Tsarnaev house at least once to discuss a brand of Islam that worried some family members, including Tamerlan's father.
"Somehow, he just took his brain," Tamerlan's uncle Ruslan Tsarni told the AP.
Tamerlan's mother, however, approved of Misha's views, according to the report.
Investigators want to know whether Tamerlan, the suspect who was killed in a police standoff Friday, or his younger brother, Dzhokhar, who was captured alive, had connections to any radical or militant groups.
They have focused on Tamerlan, especially his six-month visit to this region last year.
His mother told ABC News earlier this week that she was the one who encouraged Tamerlan to embrace Islam in 2008 after she became concerned about his drinking, smoking and womanizing. At around the same time, she also began to observe a stricter interpretation of Islam, covering her head and praying more often.
Family members in Dagestan told ABC News earlier in the week that Tamerlan's religious views were formed in the United States, not there.
One relative said Tamerlan had a falling out with an uncle over his increasingly extreme religious views.
Tsarnaeva met with FBI investigators Tuesday in an interview that, according to a family friend, lasted until 1:00 a.m. local time.
The mother told ABC News she had spoken to Dzhokhar's lawyers in the United States who told her how her younger son, who has been formally charged with the Boston Marathon bombings, is being fed and cared for. She maintained that her sons are innocent.
She said she had been interviewed by the FBI without her husband, who she said is ill and has not yet spoken to U.S. investigators.
She said both of them plan to travel to the United States, although she didn't say when. She said they are in talks with the FBI on how they can assist them with arrangements.