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What Is Known About Suspect In St. Petersburg Attack

  • Farangis Najibullah

A man lights a candle during a memorial service for victims of a blast in the subway in St. Petersburg on April 3.

At one point, he liked boxing and wrestling. He liked Snoop Dogg and Roy Jones, Jr. He used to smoke shisha water pipes. And he liked at least two Islamic organizations that appear to promote nothing but nonthreatening religious messages.

As investigators scoured the St. Petersburg subway for evidence after the April 3 bombing and medical workers treated dozens of victims of the blast, authorities rushed to compose a picture of the man they suspect is responsible for the city's worst terrorist attack, in which 14 people were killed.

Officials in Russia have identified the man as Akbarjon Jalilov, a 22-year-old Uzbek who was born in Kyrgyzstan and held a Russian passport.

Jalilov was believed to have been killed in the April 3 blast inside the train, where his remains were found among the debris, they said.

According to Russia's Investigative Committee, authorities found "genetic traces" of Jalilov on a backpack that contained a bomb that was discovered at another subway station. Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security has confirmed that the chief suspect was a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen.

Citing local law enforcement agencies in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that Jalilov obtained his Russian passport at the Russian Consulate in his native city of Osh in 2011.

The Kyrgyz news site Turmush.kg quoted Russian Consul-General Roman Svistin in Osh as saying Jalilov was granted Russian citizenship because his father held a Russian passport.

In 2011, the teenage Jalilov, along with his father, left to find work in Russia, joining hundreds of thousands of other migrant workers who leave impoverished Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries, where jobs are hard to come by.

Jalilov's father eventually returned to Kyrgyzstan, but the son remained in Russia, reportedly working at a St. Petersburg sushi restaurant.

WATCH: St. Petersburg Residents React To Deadly Blast

So far, there is no public indication that the bombing was motivated by religious extremism. It wasn't clear if Jalilov was an observant Muslim, or whether he had somehow become affiliated with any religious extremist group. Nor has any group claimed responsibility.

Islam is the predominant religion in Central Asia, and both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have struggled with the growing threat of radical extremism. Hundreds of men and women from the region have traveled to Syria in recent years to join the effort by the Islamic State group to build a religious state there.

Nor is there anything in Jalilov's profile on the Russian social media network VK that indicates he might have been prone to violence, and only small hints to his interests, at least as of 2014, when the profile was last updated.

Jalilov listed music and sports, in particular boxing and wrestling, among his interests.

He posted photographs of himself socializing with friends, or smoking shisha water pipes in restaurants. He posted links to videos about boxing and wrestling, along with dozens of links to music files, including by rap artist Snoop Dogg, and boxer-rapper Roy Jones, Jr.

He also "liked" two groups that appeared to be moderate Islamic organizations, and neither of which appeared to have anything resembling radical or extremist ideology.

Jalilov's last post, on May 2014, is of himself wearing a puffy vest, a green hoodie, and a baseball hat with the label obscured.

The Moscow24 TV channel reported that Jalilov had recently quit his job at the sushi bar in St. Petersburg and "disappeared." There were also unconfirmed rumors among Jalilov's friends that he had gone to South Korea, Moscow24 said.

One of his former co-workers, Ali Matkarimov, was quoted by Zvezda TV as also confirming that they previously worked together at the sushi restaurant. "He didn't pray in that time," he added.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Eldar Abdyldaev told reporters in Moscow on April 4 that investigators had not determined if there was a link to the Islamic State extremist group, whose militants have been involved in other terrorist attacks in Europe.

At the family's home in Osh's Amir Timur neighborhood, relatives and neighbors described Jalilov as a “normal guy” in comments to a correspondent for RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service who visited on April 4.

“He wasn’t like that… He worked at a restaurant in Russia. He was a normal guy,” said Jalilov’s aunt, Dilabzo, who added that she believed he had served in the Russian army.

“He was a very good boy. Kind and hard-working,” said community leader Anvarjon Dadajanov. “Everyone says that he was a normal guy.”

Relatives and neighbors told RFE/RL that Jalilov's parents were being held by the authorities for questioning.

With reporting by Current Time’s Jibek Begalieva and Ydyrys Isakov of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service
** This story has been updated to incorporate comments from Jalilov's relatives and neighbors.
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