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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.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will decide whether to seek the death penalty after a process known as the “death-penalty protocol.” Under the protocol, the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts and Justice Department attorneys in Washington review all aspects of the suspected crime, as well as the defendant’s background, criminal history and other characteristics.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was being treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where 11 of the victims of the twin bombing last week, just short of the marathon’s finish line, also were being treated.
Authorities said a pressure cooker bomb thrown by the brothers at police during the shootout was similar to those used during the marathon bombings. They also tossed what the FBI and police described as four grenade-type explosives at the pursuing officers.
“It does seem to be pretty clear that this suspect took the backpack off, put it down, did not react when the first explosion went off and then moved away from the backpack in time for the second explosion,” Mr. Patrick said. “It’s pretty clear about his involvement and pretty chilling, frankly.”
In this case, law enforcement authorities said it does not appear that a confession is necessary to proceed. They noted that the driver of a vehicle the brothers are accused of carjacking told police the brothers had told him they were the marathon bombers and had fatally shot the MIT officer. Also, one of the bomb victims, who lost both legs, told investigators that he saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev place one of the bombs.
Law enforcement authorities said it also appeared, based on the number of weapons and the amount of explosives uncovered during the Thursday night shootout, that the brothers had been planning other attacks after the marathon bombings.
“We have reason to believe, based upon the evidence that was found at that scene the explosions, the explosive ordnance that was unexploded and the firepower that they had that they were going to attack other individuals,” Mr. Davis said, adding that while authorities are not sure whether other explosive devices will be found, the people of Boston are safe.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III described the massive manhunt and capture of the two men as an “extraordinary effort by law enforcement, intelligence and public safety agencies.”
“These collaborative efforts, with the help and cooperation of the public, resulted in the successful outcome we have seen tonight. The investigation will continue as part of our efforts to seek answers and justice, and there will be no pause in that effort,” he said.
One person injured in the marathon bombings was released from the hospital Sunday, although 52 others remain under care three in critical condition.
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About the Author
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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