Early Thinking: Boston Suspects Were Working On Their Own

Published On : 4/23/2013 12:07 PM
By : Mark Memmott
From : NPR
Categories : Nation
Dzhokhar (at left) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly killed an MIT police officer, carjacked a vehicle and engaged in a gun battle with police soon after authorities distributed this image of the brothers walking near the finish line of the Boston Marathon just before two bombs exploded. Tamerlan, 26, died from injuries he received. Dzhokhar, 19, was captured Friday night.

(Most recent update: 2:15 p.m. ET.)

As investigators learn more about the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings and what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, allegedly did, the initial theory is that "these two young men were working on their own," NPR's Dina Temple-Raston said Tuesday on Morning Edition.

Dzhokhar (at left) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly killed an MIT police officer, carjacked a vehicle and engaged in a gun battle with police soon after authorities distributed this image of the brothers walking near the finish line of the Boston Marathon just before two bombs exploded. Tamerlan, 26, died from injuries he received. Dzhokhar, 19, was captured Friday night.

Authorities continue to question 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who remains hospitalized. He's being treated at a Boston hospital for a variety of injuries he sustained during gun battles with police on Friday. It's also possible he tried to kill himself before he was captured that evening in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Mass.

His 26-year-old brother died of injuries early Friday.

Investigators say they are hearing from Tsarnaev through notes he's writing in response to questions. Other than one comment from the magistrate who presided at his hospital-bed arraignment Monday, there's been no indication the suspect is able to speak more than a word or two at a time. The magistrate reported that Tsarnaev said "no" when asked if he could afford a lawyer.

According to law enforcement sources Dina has spoken with, the information they've gotten from the 19-year-old leads them to suspect — so far — that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the "driving force" behind the bombings at the marathon (which killed three people and wounded more than 200).

The information Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been giving to investigators, Dina added, has them theorizing the attack was "in a sense a homegrown plot with a little bit of an international flavor." Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who reportedly had grown increasingly interested in an extremist form of Islam in recent years, traveled to Russia at least once. The family has Chechen roots.

CNN says investigators also believe the brothers were influenced by things they read on the Internet, and may have learned about bomb-making there, as well.

An important reminder: The investigation is still in its early stages. Authorities will uncover much more evidence. The picture of what led the brothers to allegedly plant bombs at the marathon and then, allegedly, kill an MIT police officer and engage in a harrowing gun battle with authorities, could change substantially.

We'll be following Tuesday's developments and will update as news comes in.

Update at 2:15 p.m. ET:

Boston Carjacking Victim Thought He Would Be Killed.

Update at 1:30 p.m. ET. Sources Tell Washington Post That Tsarnaev Has Admitted Involvement:

"The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack," The Washington Post reports, citing "U.S. officials familiar with the interviews" as its sources.

NPR has not independently confirmed that information. (See this note about how we cover news such as this.)

Update at 12:40 p.m. ET. Tsarnaev's Condition Now "Fair."

This just in from the U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts:

"According to Beth Israel Deaconess, at noon today, Dzhokhar Tsarvaev's condition is listed as 'fair.' Releasing info at request of BIDMC."

BIDMC is Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Previously, Tsarnaev had been in "serious" condition.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. Photos From The Scene Of Friday's Gun Battle:

Andrew Kitzenberg of Watertown, Mass., has posted a series of pictures he reports taking in the early hours of Friday, when the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly engaged in a gun battle with police (during which they also allegedly lobbed explosives at the officers). It was dark, so the images aren't crystal clear. But they do offer a unique perspective on what happened.

Update at noon ET. Martin Richard, 8-Year-Old Victim, Has Been Buried:

A private funeral and burial were held Tuesday morning for the youngest of the three people killed in the bombings, 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, Mass. His parents, Denise and Bill Richard, released this statement:

"The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous. This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal.

"A private Funeral Mass was celebrated this morning with immediate family. We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace. We plan to have a public memorial service in the coming weeks to allow friends and loved ones from our community to join us for a celebration of Martin's life."

Denise Richard and Martin's sister were severely wounded in the blast.

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. Homeland Security Knew Of Older Brother's 2012 Trip To Russia, Napolitano Says:

"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that her agency knew of alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trip to Russia last year even though his name was misspelled on a travel document," The Associated Press reports from Washington, where Napolitano made her comments during a hearing on Capitol Hill about immigration legislation.

The wire service adds that:

"Napolitano said that even though Tsarnaev's name was misspelled, redundancies in the system allowed his departure to be captured by U.S. authorities in January 2012. But she said that by the time he came back six months later, an FBI alert on him had expired and so his re-entry was not noted."

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been on the FBI's radar after Russian authorities asked in 2011 that he be questioned about "his shift toward increasing Islamic extremism," as CNN writes. The bureau says it "did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign" on his part.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Friends Are Convinced That Triple Murder In 2011 Happened On Sept. 11:

We reported Monday that prosecutors in Middlesex County, Mass., plan to take another look at an unsolved triple murder from 2011 in which one of the victims was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported that even though the death certificates of the victims say they died on Sept. 12 that year, friends and relatives are convinced they were killed on Sept. 11 — the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks in the nation's history.

Earlier, these were some of the morning's related headlines:

— If Convicted, Tsarnaev Could Face Death Penalty. (The Washington Post)

— "Bedside Transcript Of Boston Bombing Suspect Hearing." (The Boston Globe)

— "Officials Say They Had No Authority To Watch Older Suspect." (The New York Times, which limits the number of stories that can be read for free.)

Note: As happens when stories such as this are developing, there will likely be reports that turn out to be mistaken. We will focus on news being reported by NPR, other news outlets with expertise, and statements from authorities who are in a position to know what's going on. And if some of that information turns out to be wrong, we'll update.

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