Boston Marathon bombs triggered by remote-control detonator
ASSOCIATED PRESS April 24, 2013 6:32PM
FILE - This combination of undated file photos shows Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The FBI says the two brothers are the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, and are also responsible for killing an MIT police officer, critically injuring a transit officer in a firefight and throwing explosive devices at police during a getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left Tamerlan dead and Dzhokhar captured, late Friday, April 19, 2013. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sought to embrace American lives after immigrating from Russia _ joining a boxing club, winning a scholarship and even seeking U.S. citizenship. But their uncle last week angrily called them losers who failed to feel settled even after a decade of living in the United States. (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun & Robin Young, File)
Updated: April 25, 2013 1:27AM
WASHINGTON — The bombs used in the deadly Boston Marathon attacks were triggered by a remote detonator of the kind used in remote-controlled toys, U.S. officials said Wednesday, while investigators traveled to Russia to meet with the parents of the brothers suspected in the attack.
The officials said investigators found pieces of the remote-control equipment among the debris and were analyzing them. One of the officials described the detonator as “close-controlled” — meaning it had to be triggered within several blocks of the bombs.
Both officials are close to the ongoing investigation but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
A criminal complaint outlining federal charges against the surviving bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, described him as holding a cellphone in his hand minutes before the first explosion. Cellphones have been used to trigger bombings in war zones.
The older of the two brothers, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police last week. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, remained hospitalized and was being questioned over his role in the attacks.
Two U.S. officials said Wednesday that Dzhokhar was unarmed when police captured him hiding inside a boat in a neighborhood back yard. Authorities originally said they had exchanged gunfire with the suspect for more than one hour Friday evening before they were able to subdue him.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation, said investigators recovered a 9 mm handgun believed to have been used by Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan, from the site of a gun battle Thursday night, which injured a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer. Dzhokhar was believed to have been shot before he escaped.
The officials tell The Associated Press that no gun was found in the boat. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said earlier that shots were fired from inside the boat.
U.S. officials said Dzhokhar has told interrogators he and his brother were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Investigators traveled to the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan in southern Russia and were in contact with the brothers’ parents, hoping to learn more about their motives.
Investigators are looking into whether Tamerlan, who spent six months in Russia’s turbulent Caucasus region in 2012, was influenced by the religious extremists who have waged an insurgency against Russian forces in the area for years. The brothers have roots in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya, but had lived in the U.S. for about a decade.
Their parents, Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, plan to fly to the United States on Thursday, the father was quoted as telling the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. The family has said it wants to bring Tamerlan’s body back to Russia.
Tamerlan’s name was added to a U.S. government terrorism database about 18 months before the attacks, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.
In the fall of 2011, Russia contacted the CIA with concerns about Tamerlan.
Two officials said the CIA added Tsnaraev’s name to a terrorism database, called TIDE, that feeds into watch lists like the one used to keep terrorists off airplanes. The Russians contacted the FBI about Tsarnaev earlier that year. The FBI conducted an investigation and did not find he had any terror connections.
Conflicting stories appeared to emerge about which U.S. agencies knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month trip to Russia last year and how they handled it.
The confusion prompted criticism that failure to share intelligence may have contributed to the bombing last week, despite an overhaul of the intelligence system after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration legislation that her agency knew about Tsarnaev’s journey to his homeland.
But Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the FBI “told me they had no knowledge of him leaving or coming back.”
Following a closed-door briefing in Congress with the FBI and other law enforcement officials on Tuesday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it doesn’t appear yet that anyone was at fault. But he said he was asking all the federal agencies for more information about who knew what about the suspect.
“There still seem to be serious problems with sharing information, including critical investigative information ... not only among agencies but also within the same agency in one case,” said committee member Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Meanwhile, evidence mounted that Tsarnaev had embraced a radical, anti-American strain of Islam. Family members blamed the influence of a Muslim convert, known only to the family as Misha, for steering him toward a strict type of Islam.
“Somehow, he just took his brain,” said Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland, who recalled conversations with Tamerlan’s worried father about Misha’s influence.
Authorities don’t believe Tsarnaev or his brother had links to terror groups. However, two U.S. officials said that Tsarnaev frequently looked at extremist websites, including Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate. The magazine has endorsed lone-wolf terror attacks.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
More than 4,000 mourners, including Vice President Joe Biden, paid their respects Wednesday to Sean Collier, 26, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who authorities said was shot to death by the Tsarnaev brothers three days after the bombings.
Funerals were held Tuesday for Collier and 8-year-old Martin Richard. Martin, the youngest of those killed by blasts near the marathon finish line, was laid to rest after a family-only funeral Mass.
“The outpouring of love and support over the last week has been tremendous,” the family said in a statement. “This has been the most difficult week of our lives.”
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.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston backyard on Friday.
In Washington, however, Republican Senate Intelligence Committee member Richard Burr 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, but that the brothers had apparently been radicalized by material on the Internet rather than by contact with militant groups overseas.
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 Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, 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.”
Associated Press writers Lara Jakes, Adam Goldman Kimberly Dozier, Bridget Murphy, Bob Salsberg Lynn Berry, Eric Tucker, Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.