Boston bomb suspect: My brother was the mastermind

Posted at 7:19 PM, Apr 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-23 08:12:58-04
By Jake Tapper and Matt Smith


(CNN) — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has indicated that his older brother, not any international terrorist group, masterminded the deadly attack, a U.S. government source said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has been hospitalized with a tube down his throat in recent days, communicated with investigators by writing and nodding.

[Read the full criminal complaint filed against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev]

The preliminary interviews with Tsarnaev suggest the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists, the source said.

Tsarnaev has conveyed to investigators that Tamerlan’s motivation stemmed from jihadist thought and the idea that Islam is under attack, and jihadists need to fight back, the source said Monday.

The government source cautioned that the interviews were preliminary, and that Tsarnaev’s account needs to be checked out and followed up on by investigators.

A federal law enforcement official told CNN that while investigators have seen no indication the suspects collaborated with others, they still have plenty of work to do before they can confidently say no others were involved. That official would not comment on any motive or specifics on what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has communicated to officials.

A bedside court appearance

As hints of a possible motive continue to emerge, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remains hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds.

The 19-year-old was shot in the head, neck, legs and one hand, according to an FBI affidavit supporting the charges. It’s not clear whether he was wounded during his capture Friday night or in an earlier shootout with police that left his 26-year-old brother dead.

The younger Tsarnaev has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, as well as one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.

Though he had been heavily sedated and on a ventilator at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Tsarnaev was “alert, mentally competent and lucid” during the brief initial court appearance at his bedside Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler found.

During the hearing, Tsarnaev communicated mostly by nodding his head, though he once answered “no” when Bowler asked him if he could afford a lawyer, according to a transcript of the proceeding. A public defender was appointed to represent him.

Investigators have been asking Tsarnaev whether there are more bombs, explosives caches or weapons beyond those already found by police, and if anyone else was involved in the attacks, a source with direct knowledge of the investigation told CNN. Investigators are going into Tsarnaev’s room every few hours to ask questions in the presence of doctors, the source said.

Federal agents at first questioned Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights, under an exception to the rule invoked when authorities believe there is an imminent public safety threat, a Justice Department official said over the weekend. But by the time of the hospital room proceeding, government sources said he had been read his rights, and Bowler reviewed those with him again Monday.

Bowler scheduled a probable cause hearing for May 30.

Did the brothers have more plans?

Newly released surveillance images show a stone-faced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev visiting an ATM in the hours before a police chase and chaotic shootout in which more than 200 rounds were fired.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after the shootout with police early Friday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found that night, hiding in a boat and bleeding in the backyard of a house in the Boston suburb of Watertown.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the brothers, armed with handguns and explosives, apparently were planning another attack before the shootout derailed their efforts.

“I believe that the only reason that someone would have those in their possession was to further attack people and cause more death and destruction,” Davis told CNN on Monday.

Tracing Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s background

While Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently became increasingly radical in the past three or four years, there was no evidence Monday that he had any active association with international jihadist groups.

The Tsarnaev family hails from the Russian republic of Chechnya and fled the brutal wars there in the 1990s. The two brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan; Dzhokhar became a U.S. citizen in 2012, while Tamerlan was a legal U.S. resident.

An FBI official said agents interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 at the request of the Russian government. The FBI said Russia claimed that he was a follower of radical Islam and that he had changed drastically since 2010.

But the Russian government’s request was vague, a U.S. official and a law enforcement source said Sunday. The lack of specifics limited how much the FBI was able to investigate Tamerlan, the law enforcement official said.

Area near blasts to reopen Tuesday

Eight days after the dual bombing turned a stretch of Boylston Street into a gruesome scene of carnage, Boston is now ready to open the area to business owners and residents.

While the site will remain closed to the general public Tuesday, authorities will escort business owners and residents to the area over several hours Tuesday, the city’s website states.

When Bostonians eventually return to Boylston Street en masse, the sight will send a strong message about the city’s strength, the police chief said.

“They will be walking up and down this street, and the terrorists will understand that they can not keep us down.”

CNN’s Holly Yan, Michael Pearson, Carol Cratty, Tina Burnside, Fran Townsend, Deborah Feyerick, Jill Dougherty, Pamela Brown, Julian Cummings, Barbara Starr and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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