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Anger over burial of Boston bomb suspect

Interment at private Virginia cemetery angers local Muslim community and local officials who say they were not informed.

Last Modified: 11 May 2013 11:14
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The Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia said in a statement there were no political motivations behind the burial [AP]

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in a rural cemetery in Virginia, infuriating some members of the area's Muslim community as well as local officials who said they were not consulted.

Some of the officials said on Friday that that they would examine whether all laws were followed and could seek to have his body moved elsewhere.

They said they were not informed about the burial and were concerned about the site becoming a shrine to anti-US sympathisers.

This week's interment at a small Islamic cemetery ended a long search for a community willing to take the body, which had been kept at a funeral parlour in Massachusetts.

Tsarnaev was killed on April 19 after a gun battle with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured later and remains in custody.

The ethnic Chechens, who had lived in the US for several years, are accused of setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs on April 15 near the marathon's finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

Ruslan Tsarni, the brothers' uncle, took responsibility for the body after Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, said she wanted it released to her in-laws.

He said his nephew was buried in a cemetery in Doswell with the help of a faith coalition. "The body's buried," he said. "That's it."

'Reviled and maligned'

Dozens of communities approached about hosting a gravesite had refused, many with concerns about vandalism and a backlash from the public.

Martha Mullen, a mental health counsellor who helped arrange the burial, told the AP news agency in a brief telephone interview that she had offered to help after seeing news reports about the refusals.

Mullen said she was not the only person who helped with arrangements.

She said the backlash from some local officials, some cemetery neighbours and online critics has been unpleasant, but she has no regrets.

"I can't pretend it's not difficult to be reviled and maligned," she said. "But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that's what God calls us to do."

Mullen, a graduate of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, sent emails to various faith organisations to see what could be done.

She heard back from the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which arranged for a funeral plot at the Al-Barzakh cemetery.

The cemetery is hidden among the rural woods and hills, about 50km north of Richmond, and contains only 47 graves in all.

No consultation

Sheriff Tony Lippa and Board of Supervisors chairman Floyd Thomas of Caroline County said no state or local officials were told that Tsarnaev would be buried there.

Permission is not required from officials as long as laws are followed. The officials said they do not want the county remembered as the resting place for someone allegedly tied to a horrific act, but it was unlikely they would be able to do anything.

Imam Ammar Amonette, of the Islamic Centre of Virginia, said his group was never consulted and that Mullen reached out to a separate group, the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond.

"The whole Muslim community here is furious. Frankly, we are furious that we were never given any information. It was all done secretly behind our backs," Amonette said, adding it "makes no sense whatsoever" that Tsarnaev's body was buried in Virginia.

"Now everybody who's buried in that cemetery, their loved ones are going to have to go to that place."

Bukhari Abdel-Alim, vice president of The Islamic Funeral Services in Virginia, said in a statement that they disagree with Tsarnaev's actions but are obligated to "return his body to the earth".

"Its not a political thing, it's more so we have somebody that has passed away, he can't bury himself," he said.

"Somebody needed to take responsibility, we were able to do so, and that's what we did," he said while reading the statement from the cemetery."

Tsarnaev's death certificate shows he was shot by police in the firefight on the night of April 18 and run over and dragged by a vehicle.

He died a few hours later on April 19. Authorities have said his brother ran over him in his getaway attempt.

Tsarnaev's mother said Russia refused to allow his body into the country so she could bury him in her native Dagestan, but Russian authorities refused comment.

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Source:
Associated Press
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