DOSWELL, Virginia (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in a rural cemetery in Virginia, infuriating some members of the area’s Islamic community who say they weren’t consulted and startling officials who said they hadn’t been informed.
Local officials said Friday they would examine whether all laws were followed in the burial and could seek to have his body moved elsewhere if they weren’t. They said they are concerned about the site becoming a shrine to anti-US sympathizers.
The interment this week at a small Islamic cemetery ended a frustrating search for a community willing to take the body, which had been kept at a funeral parlor Massachusetts, as cemeteries in several states refused to accept the remains.
Tsarnaev was killed April 19 in a getaway attempt after a gun battle with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured later and remains in custody. The ethnic Chechens from Russia are accused of setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs April 15 near the marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260.
The brothers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, 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.”
Tsarni has denounced the acts his nephews are accused of committing and has said they brought shame to the family and the entire Chechen community.
Dozens of communities approached about hosting a gravesite had refused, many with concerns about gravesite vandalism and backlash from the public.
Martha Mullen in Virginia told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview that she offered to help after seeing news reports about the refusals. She said she is not the only person who helped with arrangements.
She said the backlash from some local officials, some cemetery neighbors and online critics has been unpleasant, but she has no regrets.
“I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned,” Mullen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. “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 said she heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.
“My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies,” she said.Then she had an epiphany.
“I thought someone ought to do something about this — and I am someone,” Mullen said.
So Mullen, a mental health counselor in private practice and a graduate of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, sent emails to various faith organizations to see what could be done. She heard back from Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which arranged for a funeral plot at the Al-Barzakh cemetery. “It was an interfaith effort,” she said.
The cemetery is hidden among the rural woods and hills, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Richmond, and contains only 47 graves in all. All were covered with reddish-brown mulch except for two that appeared newly dug, neither with any kind of marking and one of them presumably Tsarnaev’s.
On one of the new graves lay a vase full of roses at one end and a single red rose at the other end. The other new grave was bare.
A news helicopter hovered overhead, along with a swarm of television news trucks in what is ordinarily a tranquil meadow in a large, wooded section within sight of a roller coaster at the Kings Dominion amusement park along Interstate 95.
Sheriff Tony Lippa and Board of Supervisors chairman Floyd Thomas of rural 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 don’t want the county remembered as the resting place for someone tied to a horrific act, but there’s likely nothing they can do.
Desecrating the grave is a felony, Lippa said.
Imam Ammar Amonette, of the Islamic Center 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,” he said.
The Islamic Society of Greater Richmond didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking confirmation that it was involved in the burial.
At least one neighbor was unaware the cemetery was even there.
Jaquese Goodall said a rope usually blocks the gravel road leading to the cemetery. She had no idea when the body was buried and never saw hearses enter or leave the property.
“If they didn’t want him in Boston, why did they bring him all the way down here against our wishes?” said Goodall, 21.
Tsarnaev’s death certificate was released Friday. It showed he was shot by police in the firefight 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.
His mother said Russia refused to allow his body into the country so she could bury him in her native Dagestan, but Russian authorities would not comment on that contention.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press
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