Huge police manhunt in Boston for second marathon bombing suspect
One suspect shot dead in standoff with authorities after death of police officer
Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb today in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.
The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.
Officials identified the fugitive as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (19) and the dead man as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26) who was killed last night in the working class suburb of Watertown. Details emerged today about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. Monday's bombing on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured 176, was described by president Barack Obama as "an act of terrorism." It was the worst such attack on USsoil since the plane hijackings of September 11th, 2001.
A man who told reporters he was an uncle of the brothers said they came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area. Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in suburban Washington and has not spoken to the brothers since 2009, said the bombings "put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity."
Others remembered the brothers as friendly and respectful youths who never stood out or caused alarm. The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.
Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.
"We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street," Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said. Swat teams moved through in formation, leaving an officer behind to ensure that searched homes remain secure, a law enforcement official said.
Police expanded their search to Dartmouth, Massachusetts where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was enrolled as a student at the University of Massachusetts. The school was closed Friday. Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak suspended train service between Boston and New York indefinitely. The Boston Red Sox postponed their night baseball game at historic Fenway Park, as did the Bruins hockey team.
The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States. "They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there," Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online.
"Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain." The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the biggest mosque in the area, said in a statement that "after the terrible and sad events of last night, the criminal of the bombings on the loose" it was shutting its doors until further notice.
The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to US government sources. US government officials said the Tsarnaev brothers have not yet turned up in any databases as possible militants. Investigators were looking for links to radical foreign groups or possible accomplices in the United States.
A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge.
He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.
His "World view" was listed as "Islam" and his "Personal priority" as "career and money." He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as "Salamworld, my religion is Islam" and "There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts."
He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s. Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman who described herself as a sister of the suspects.
"I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK," she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey. She said the older brother "was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away ... "
She said of the younger brother, "He's a child." Luis Vasquez, a youth worker who lives two blocks from the Tsarnaev house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said he coached the younger brother in high school. "I just remember him being a quiet, respectful, eager to learn kid," he said. Vasquez went to high school with the older brother.
"He was just a big friendly giant. He had a sense of humor. He was open to getting to know new people and just like his brother never really stood out in terms of something alarming."
In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community. Overnight, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.
The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions. "We believe this to be a terrorist," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. "We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody."