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Bombing motive now big question; injured suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev starts responding to queries
Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities continued their search Sunday for a motive in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 180, many of them gravely, trying to determine whether the two brothers suspected in the carnage had ties to Muslim jihad groups.
Key in that continuing investigation will be the interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old man known as “Suspect No. 2” and the man in the white hat, who was seriously wounded in a frantic shootout with police that killed his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, before his dramatic capture in a boat Friday night in a peaceful Watertown, Mass., neighborhood.
Also killed during the manhunt was Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Officer Sean Collier, 26. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police Officer Richard H. Donahue Jr., 33, was seriously injured and taken to a hospital, where he remained Sunday in critical but stable condition.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told CBS‘ “Face the Nation” that the younger brother was in serious condition and under heavy guard at a Boston hospital. He sustained one wound to the throat and another to the tongue and is unable to talk.
Mr. Tsarnaev is “in no condition to be interrogated at this point in time. He’s progressing, though, and we’re monitoring the situation carefully,” Mr. Davis said, adding that the teenager eventually will be questioned by a special team of officers and agents from the FBI and the Boston Police Department.
On Sunday evening, law enforcement officials in Boston told several news outlets that Mr. Tsarnaev was awake and able to respond in writing to interrogators’ questions. ABC News specified that officials were asking about unexploded bombs and other cell members.
Investigators said the brothers, ethnic Chechens who lived in Cambridge, Mass., were Muslims and recently gravitated to a radical strain of Islam, even posting anti-American and jihadist videos on social media sites.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev had posted a YouTube video of Sheik Feiz Mohammad, a radical Muslim cleric who has urged children to become martyrs for Islam and has called for the destruction of America. It remained unclear Sunday whether the brothers had closer ties to the cleric than posting videos of him, which anyone could do without the person’s knowledge.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia in January 2012 and spent six months in the southern majority-Muslim regions of Chechnya and Dagestan, although it is unclear exactly what he did. His parents told The Associated Press in Russia on Sunday that he visited relatives and mostly relaxed.
A British newspaper, The Mirror, cited anonymous sources Sunday as saying the FBI, based on the sophistication of the pressure cooker bomb, was investigating whether the two Chechens had help and was looking for a terrorist “sleeper cell” that could have up to 12 members.
Questions have been raised on what the FBI might have known about Tamerlan Tsarnaev as early as 2011, when the Russian government contacted the bureau seeking information on his potential ties to radical Islam. The bureau purportedly checked available databases, interviewed the elder brother and did not find any terrorism activities domestic or foreign.
It was unclear Sunday when the younger brother will be charged in the case and with what.
Federal authorities, who have taken over the lead role in the investigation, could accuse him of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, which carries a possible death sentence. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.
Authorities also acknowledged that Mr. Tsarnaev had not been told of his rights to remain silent and request an attorney as required by the Miranda ruling. The Justice Department on Friday invoked a seldom-used public safety exception permitting officials to engage in a limited and focused unwarned interrogation of a suspect. That interrogation could proceed without reading Mr. Tsarnaev his rights.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Rep. Peter T. King of New York said in a joint statement that the decision not to read the suspect his Miranda rights was “sound and in our national security interests.” But there were concerns that limiting the investigation to 48 hours and relying on the public safety exception to Miranda “could very well be a national security mistake.”
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About the Author
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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