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Group wants Tsarnaev’s Caroline burial reviewed

The head of a group that says it opposes the spread of radical Islam planted himself outside the Al–Barzakh Cemetery in Caroline County Monday morning to protest the burial there of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

“We think the body of this terrorist should be disinterred and disposed somewhere outside America,” said James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force.

He said his organization will work with other groups to persuade local, state and federal officials to move the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was quietly buried at the local cemetery sometime last week.

Lafferty said his group, which has also opposed an Islamic school in Northern Virginia, has about 200 members. Only a handful showed up to the Monday morning press conference, where Lafferty said he didn’t want Tsarnaev’s grave to become a shrine for extremists.

“I consider this the first step in establishing a monument to a jihadist,” he said.

That claim was quickly dispelled by a representative from the group that arranged Tsarnaev’s burial in Virginia. There is no possibility that any kind of monument or memorial would be built at the cemetery, said Bukhari Abdel–Alim, the vice president of Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia.

He said that something like that would not be supported in Islam and that the markers for the other 49 graves in the cemetery are very simple.

Abdel–Alim said Islam does not support disinterment, but he added his organization and the owners of the private cemetery would comply with any court order.

“The deceased have rights,” he said, “and one of those rights is to be buried properly.”

Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police a few days after the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured more than 250.

While his family claimed his body, they had difficulty finding any cemetery willing to bury it. A Richmond woman heard about the issue and emailed members of her Christian church as well as representatives of Richmond-area Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities in search of a solution.

The Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which runs the Muslim cemetery west of Dawn, offered a burial plot.

Word of Tsarnaev’s burial got out last week when his death certificate became public record in Massachusetts. The news caught Caroline County officials off-guard.

At a press conference Friday, Sheriff Tony Lippa and Floyd Thomas, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said they would look into the legality of the burial.

Lippa said Saturday that all of the documents related to the burial—including the death certificate and a body transfer permit—appear to be in order.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tsarnaev’s burial in Doswell “wouldn’t have been my choice,” but it isn’t a matter for the state to interfere with.

“It’s really a matter of private property,” McDonnell said. “Would I prefer that he be buried somewhere else? Sure.”

He said the state doesn’t regulate burials on private property.

That hasn’t settled the matter for some. The director of the Massachusetts funeral home where Tsarnaev’s body was held for days told The Associated Press that he has received about 20 calls from Virginia residents complaining about the secret burial.

Peter Stefan, of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, said he didn’t agree with the way the body was moved—taken from his funeral home in a nondescript van for the first leg of an overnight trip to Virginia in a truck rented by Tsarnaev’s uncle.

Stefan said he had been hoping Russia would eventually accept Tsarnaev’s body, and his remains could go back to his parents.

Still, Stefan said, Massachusetts law gives families the right to bury their own relatives, and Tsarnaev’s family had a permit to take the body to Doswell, Va.

“It looked like we sneaked down there and did it,” Stefan said. “We didn’t do anything illegal. I have to prove to the people watching in Virginia that it was legal.”

Staff writer Chelyen Davis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413


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