April 24, 2013

Lawmakers ask who knew what about bombing suspect

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

The Richards family said they would hold a public memorial service for Martin in the coming weeks.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's condition was upgraded from serious to fair Tuesday as investigators continued building their case against him.

He could face the death penalty after being charged Monday with joining forces with his brother in setting off shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured. About 50 were still hospitalized.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston backyard on Friday.

In Washington, Senate Intelligence Committee member Richard Burr, R-N.C., said after his panel was briefed by federal law enforcement officials that there is "no question" that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was "the dominant force" behind the attacks and that the brothers had apparently been radicalized by material on the Internet rather than by contact with militant groups overseas.

The brothers' parents are from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim province in Russia's Caucasus, where Islamic militants have waged an insurgency against Russia. A U.S. Embassy official said Wednesday that a team of U.S. investigators has traveled to Dagestan to speak to the parents. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Family members reached in the U.S. and abroad by The Associated Press said Tamerlan was influenced by Misha.

After befriending Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing, stopped studying music and began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to family members, who said he turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind 9/11.

"You could always hear his younger brother and sisters say, 'Tamerlan said this,' and 'Tamerlan said that.' Dzhokhar loved him. He would do whatever Tamerlan would say," recalled Elmirza Khozhugov, the ex-husband of Tamerlan's sister. He spoke by telephone from his home in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The brothers, who came to the U.S. from Russia a decade ago, were raised in a home that followed Sunni Islam, the religion's largest sect, but were not regulars at the mosque and rarely discussed religion, Khozhugov said.

Then, in 2008 or 2009, Tamerlan met Misha, a heavyset bald man with a reddish beard. Khozhugov didn't know where they met but believed they attended a Boston-area mosque together.

The disclosures about the possible role of Misha in influencing Tsarnaev was described as "new information" by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "It's important we have the appropriate authorities check that out," he said Wednesday on CNN. "Obviously if there are people fomenting that type of activity in the United States we want to know who they are and hold them accountable."

Napolitano said Tuesday that her agency knew of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trip to Russia. She said that even though the suspect's name was misspelled on a travel document, redundancies in the system allowed his departure to be captured by U.S. authorities in January 2012.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Embassy official said U.S. investigators traveled to southern Russia to speak to the brothers' parents, hoping to learn more about their motives.

In other developments:

— A lawyer for Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife, Katherine Tsarnaeva, said his client "is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation," although he would not say whether she had spoken with federal authorities. Another lawyer for Tsarnaeva said the 24-year-old deeply mourned the loss of innocent victims in the bombings.

— The Massachusetts state House turned aside a bid by several lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases, including the murder of police officers. In a 119-38 vote, the House sent the proposal to a study committee rather than advance it to an up-or-down vote.

— In New Jersey, the sisters of the suspects, Ailina and Bella Tsarnaeva, issued a statement saying they were saddened to "see so many innocent people hurt after such a callous act." Later, in brief remarks to several news outlets, Ailina described her elder brother as a "kind and loving man." She said of both brothers: "I have no idea what got into them" and also that "at the end of the day no one knows the truth."

— Phantom Fireworks of Seabrook, N.H., said Tamerlan Tsarnaev bought 48 mortar shells at the store in February. Company Vice President William Weimer, however, said the amount of gunpowder that could be extracted from the fireworks would not have been enough for the Boston bombs.

— A fund created to benefit the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks has generated $20 million. Mayor Thomas Menino said more than 50,000 donors from across the world have made donations to One Fund Boston.

 

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