Alvi Tsarni, one of the Maryland uncles of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, says there was trouble in the family. (Erin Cox/Baltimore Sun video)

An uncle of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings said his nephews had brought shame to his family and ethnicity, while their father insisted they were innocent and had been framed.

The uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said Friday from his front lawn in Montgomery Village that he had been following news reports and never could have imagined his brother's children were involved in the attack. He and another brother living in the middle-class Washington suburb said they have been estranged from the suspects' family.

Ruslan Tsarni [Pictures]

"It is an atrocity," Tsarni said. "We are devastated. We're shocked. We've not been in touch with that family for a number of years."

Meanwhile, the father of the two suspects, Anzor Tsarnaev, defended his sons in a phone interview from the Russian city of Makhachkala and insisted they had been targeted because they are Muslim.

"I will never believe my boys could have done such a terrible thing," he said. "I have no doubt they were set up."

As the nation sought to learn as much as possible about the suspects, their relatives grappled with the unfathomable — that two of their youngest family members might have carried out a deadly bombing in their adopted U.S.

Marylanders at the Boston Marathon [Pictures]

The relatives watched with the world as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in an early-morning police standoff, and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, fled, leading authorities on a manhunt that effectively shut down a large section of the Boston area until he was captured Friday night.

Both uncles expressed sorrow for the three dead and more than 170 injured in the Boston bombings and voiced their devotion to the United States.

"I love this country, this country which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being," Ruslan Tsarni said.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are ethnic Chechens born in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian republic that was part of the former Soviet Union. According to a Russian official, the family had sought refuge from fighting in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim Russian republic that waged a war with Russia marked by terrorist attacks in Moscow and Breslan. The family moved for a short time to Makhachkala in Dagestan, next to Chechnya.

They eventually came to the U.S. as refugees who were granted asylum, according to a law enforcement official.

Anzor Tsarnaev said his sons did not know how to handle firearms or explosives.

"It is a provocation of the special services who went after them because my sons are Muslims and don't have anyone in America to protect them," he said.

"My older son is killed and now they are after my little boy," he said.

The two uncles said they learned about their nephews' alleged involvement through media reports and offered little insight into a possible motive for Monday's attack.

Speaking over the loud chopping sounds of helicopters hovering over his home, Ruslan Tsarni said he has not seen his nephews since December 2005. He said he didn't believe the young men had any ties to terrorist or extremist groups, but he spoke in disparaging terms about them.

Asked what he believed provoked the two men accused in the attack, Ruslan Tsarni said: "Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves — these are the only reasons I can imagine. Anything else, anything else to do with religion is a fraud. It's a fake. We're Muslims. We're ethnic Chechens."

He said someone could have "radicalized them" when asked if they had had training. "But it's not my brother, who spent his life bringing bread to their table, fixing cars," he said. "He's been working."