Official: Boston Bombing Suspects Planned to Party
By Holly Yan and Josh Levs
(CNN) — Dzkohkhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, allegedly had inflicted pain and carnage by detonating two bombs at the Boston Marathon‘s finish line. So, days later, what were they going to do next?
According to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the brothers’ destination may have been New York City and their plan may have been to “party.”
The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, remained unclaimed Wednesday, less than a week after he died after a shootout with police, according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman for Massachusetts’ chief medical examiner’s office. The exact cause of death has not been determined.
But his 19-year-old brother has been talking to authorities from his hospital bed, officials have said.
Kelly said information collected from the surviving suspect included “something about a party or having a party.”
“It may have been words to the effect of coming ‘to party’ in New York,” Kelly said.
The man who was carjacked and held hostage — allegedly by the Tsarnaev brothers — just outside Boston last week said he thought he heard the two men say “Manhattan” in their conversation, the commissioner said. The one-time hostage has told investigators the suspects spoke in another language, which may have been Chechen or Russian, while he drove with them.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in New York in late 2012, likely in November, Kelly said.
Dzhokhar has told investigators he and his brothers were self-radicalized jihadists, and indicated that his older brother Tamerlan, masterminded last week’s deadly bombing, according to a U.S. government source.
The suspects’ uncle said a friend of Tamerlan’s “brainwashed” him. And the suspects’ former brother-in-law said Tamerlan seemed to be influenced in Islam by a friend named Misha, but that he did not see Misha try to radicalize him.
Investigators had no immediate comment on reports of someone named “Misha.”
Suspects’ parents questioned
Authorities looking into what may have led the brothers to turn the joyous Boston Marathon into a scene of carnage nine days ago sought clues on the other side of the world Wednesday.
Russian authorities asked U.S authorities to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev twice, in March and November 2011, providing “basically the same information” both times, a government official said.
The FBI cleared Tamerlan in its initial investigation, which ended in June 2011, and the intelligence community seemed satisfied, a law enforcement official said. This came after Russia provided “information (that) was extremely thin,” said a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the information, questioning whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev and perhaps others had become “radicalized.”
On Wednesday, FBI agents were in Makhachkala, Dagestan — a city that Tamerlan called home for several months in 2012 — to talk with the suspects’ parents. The “conversation” — which included members of Russia’s Federal Security Service — ended Wednesday evening, the men’s mother told human rights activist Kheda Saratova.
The Tsarnaev family lived in the Russian republic of Chechnya but fled from the brutal wars there in the 1990s. The two brothers were born in Kyrgyzstan and moved at different times to the United States. Their parents now live in Dagestan.
The suspects’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, has previously said she’s convinced her boys were framed “just because they were Muslim.”
When asked whether she thinks her younger son will get a fair trial, she replied, “Only Allah will know.”
Zubeidat Tsarnaev faces three felony charges herself for alleged shoplifting and property damage in Massachusetts in 2012, according to Natick District Court. She jumped bail, and there has been an arrest warrant for her since October, the court’s clerk magistrate Brian Kearney said.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for six months last year. Officials have been looking into what he may have done there during that time.
Tamerlan’s father has said his son was with him throughout the trip.
“We just had a young person who went to Russia, Chechnya, who blew people up in Boston,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday during a trip to Belgium. “So he didn’t (say) where he went, but he learned something where he went, and he came back with a willingness to kill people.”
A senior State Department official later clarified that Kerry “was simply expressing broad concern about radicalism rather than indicating any new information or conclusion about the individuals involved.”
Boylston Street reopens as slain officer is mourned
For more than a week, a stretch of Bolyston Street — traditionally one of the busiest parts of Boston — has been a crime scene in the aftermath of the blasts that left three dead.
Traffic has been barred from the thoroughfare and businesses have been closed.
On Wednesday, workers replaced missing bricks and patched up concrete on the street just before opening it to pedestrian traffic. Crews were repairing damage caused by the two bombs, which were placed near the marathon’s finish line.
“I think that Boston is a tough city and it will be rejuvenated and ready to go,” said David Sapers, owner of Sugar Heaven on Boylston Street.
Those wounded in the explosions, meanwhile, continued to recover as well.
Of the more than 260 people who were hurt, 39 remain hospitalized Wednesday, according to a CNN tally. One person is in critical condition.
In Cambridge, mourners gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus to honor Campus Officer Sean Collier, the fourth person killed last week. Authorities believe the Tsarnaev brothers shot Collier as he sat in his patrol car Thursday night.
Suspects received welfare
The Massachusetts government said Wednesday that while they hadn’t gotten assistance this year, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had received welfare benefits in the past.
“The Tsarnaevs’ parents are former recipients of transitional assistance benefits, and both Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev received benefits through their parents when they were younger,” the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services said. “Separately, Tamerlan and his family received benefits until 2012, when the family became ineligible based on their income.”
Tamerlan was married and had a young daughter.
His brother Dzhokhar 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.
The teenager has been communicating in a limited fashion from a Massachusetts hospital where he is in fair condition, recovering from gunshot wounds.
He cited the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as motivating factors behind the attack, a U.S. government official said.
Dzhokhar told authorities that neither he nor his brother had had any contact with terrorist groups overseas, the U.S. government official said. But the official cautioned that the interviews were preliminary and that Tsarnaev’s account needs to be checked out.
CNN’s Greg Botelho, MIchael Pearson, Jake Tapper, Julia Talanova, Carol Cratty, Brian Vitagliano, Laura Ly, Deborah Feyerick, Nick Paton Walsh, Julian Cummings, Barbara Starr, Susan Candiotti, Jessica Yellin and Joe Johns contributed to this report.