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Associated Press

Local firm wants to fly bombing suspect's body back to Russia

A Fort Wayne-based company that specializes in transporting human remains has volunteered to fly the body of a Boston marathon bombing suspect back to his native Russia.

The offer was made as a show of support for funeral director Peter Stefan who hasn't been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said Frank Kaiser, the president and CEO of Eagle's Wings Air.

The company's offer was also made with hopes of easing the pain among greater Boston residents by resolving the issue of what to do with Tsarnaev's body.

"We empathize with the residents of Cambridge and surrounding communities and their objections to having Tsarnaev's final resting place located near them," Kaiser said Tuesday in a written statement. "We are offering to facilitate the air transportation of the deceased's remains out of the United States on an international commercial flight at no charge to the funeral home, the city of Cambridge or any taxpayers."

Kaiser made clear that his company's offer of free transport of the body did not apply to Tsarnaev's family.

"We have not offered to pay that fee on behalf of the family of the deceased," he said, noting that the cost of shipping a person's remains to Russia is upwards of $5,000.

Kaiser insisted the offer is not a publicity stunt. "We stand ready to offer our assistance at no profit to our company," he said.

The CEO described his company, founded in 2007, as the nation's leader in shipping human remains. He said his business made 15,000 such transports domestically and internationally in 2012.

So far Eagle's Wings Air has not been able to reach Stefan to tell him about the offer. The company issued its statement Tuesday hoping that news of the offer would reach him, Kaiser said.

On Sunday, Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., arrived in Massachusetts to arrange for his nephew's burial. Tsarni and three of his friends met with Stefan and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev's body according to Muslim tradition. The 26-year-old died after a gun battle with police on April 19.

Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev's burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he has lived in the state for the last decade, he said.

Stefan said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived, to provide a burial plot, and if Cambridge turns him down, he will seek help from Massachusetts officials.

Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveillance photos wearing a black cap and was identified as Suspect No. 1, died days after the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was captured.

Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him "un-American" for being willing to handle Tamerlan Tsarnaev's funeral.

"We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No," he said. "We are burying a dead body. That's what we do."

A half dozen protesters gathered outside the funeral home Sunday holding signs and American flags and chanting "USA!" One sign read: "Do not bury him on U.S. soil." Several people drove by the funeral home earlier Sunday and yelled, including one man who shouted, "Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!"

The state medical examiner ruled that Tsarnaev died from gunshot wounds and blunt trauma.

aingersoll@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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