3 men charged in connection with Boston bomb case

Boston Suspects

BOSTON (AP) — Three men who attended college with the Boston Marathon bombing suspect removed his backpack from his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the attack, according to charges filed Wednesday.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

The affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of the backpack after concluding from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the bombers. A court appearance for the three is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

All three began attending UMass with Tsarnaev at the same time in 2011, the affidavit says.

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the finish line. The suspect’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a gunfight with police several days later. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and lies in a prison hospital.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending UMass. Linda Cristello, the Boston attorney who represented them at a hearing on the immigration case Wednesday morning, confirmed earlier that they were facing separate federal charges.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s relatives will claim his body now that his wife has agreed to release it, an uncle said. The body of Tsarnaev, 26, has been at the medical examiner’s office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities more than a week ago.

Amato DeLuca, the Rhode Island attorney for his widow, Katherine Russell, said Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev’s body and that she wants it released to his side of the family.

Police said Tsarnaev ran out of ammunition before his 19-year-old brother dragged his body under a vehicle while fleeing the scene. His cause of death has been determined but will not be made public until his remains are claimed.

“Of course, family members will take possession of the body,” uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland said Tuesday night. “We’ll do it. We will do it. A family is a family.”

He would not elaborate. Tsarnaev’s parents are still in Russia, but he has other relatives on his side of the family in the U.S., including Tsarni.

Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, announced plans last week to travel to the U.S. in the hope of burying his elder son, but he told the AP on Wednesday that those plans are off because he is suffering from bad headaches and high blood pressure. The 46-year-old Tsarnaev said he still hopes to go when he is feeling better.

Dzhokhar was wounded in the shootout with police as he and his brother made their getaway attempt. He is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, a crime that carries a potential death sentence.

Russian agents placed the older suspect under surveillance during a six-month visit to southern Russia last year, then scrambled to find him when he suddenly disappeared after police killed a Canadian jihadist, a security official told the AP.

U.S. law enforcement officials have been trying to determine whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev was indoctrinated or trained by militants during his visit to Dagestan, a Caspian Sea province that has become the center of a simmering Islamic insurgency.

The security official with the Anti-Extremism Center, a federal agency under Russia’s Interior Ministry, confirmed the Russians shared their concerns. He said that Russian agents were watching Tsarnaev, and that they searched for him when he disappeared two days after the July 2012 death of the Canadian man, who had joined the Islamic insurgency in the region. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Security officials suspected ties between Tsarnaev and the Canadian — an ethnic Russian named William Plotnikov — according to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which is known for its independence and investigative reporting and cited an unnamed official with the Anti-Extremism Center, which tracks militants. The newspaper said the men had social networking ties that brought Tsarnaev to the attention of Russian security services for the first time in late 2010.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday at a news conference that the U.S. counterterrorism bureaucracy “did what it was supposed to be doing” before the Boston Marathon bombing as his top intelligence official began a review into whether sensitive information was adequately shared and whether the U.S. government could have disrupted the attack.

“We want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken,” Obama said. “We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to see, is there in fact additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack.”

In Rhode Island, DeLuca said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow met with law enforcement “for many hours over the past week” and will continue cooperating. FBI agents on Monday visited her parents’ North Kingstown, R.I., home, where she has been staying, and carried away several bags.

“Katherine and her family continue to be deeply saddened by the harm that has been caused,” DeLuca said Tuesday.

Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday evening that the state had not yet received Russell’s request to release her husband’s body.

He said arrangements must be made to release the body and once that happens a death certificate will be filed and the cause of death made public. He said it is too soon to speculate on when that might happen.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; Lynn Berry in Moscow; Arsen Mollyaev in Makhachkala, Russia; and Eric Tucker, Alicia A. Caldwell, Eileen Sullivan and AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

 

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