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Massive manhunt on for Boston bombing suspect

Apr. 19, 2013 - 06:15AM   |  
This photo released by the FBI early April 19 shows what the FBI is calling the suspects together,  walking through the crowd in Boston on April 15 before the explosions at the Boston Marathon.
This photo released by the FBI early April 19 shows what the FBI is calling the suspects together, walking through the crowd in Boston on April 15 before the explosions at the Boston Marathon. (FBI via AP)
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WATERTOWN, Mass. — The city and its suburbs remain in lockdown Friday afternoon as a massive manhunt intensifies for the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. The search comes just hours after the suspect's older brother died following a dramatic shootout with police in nearby Watertown.

Authorities are focusing their hunt in Watertown for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the brother of the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. Police say Dzhokhar is armed and fear he is wearing an explosive vest.

A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY that authorities were planning an afternoon search of the Cambridge, Mass., residence where the brothers were living. They had been hesitant to enter the location out of fear that it might contain additional explosives and rigged with boobytraps.

During the overnight and early-morning pursuit of the suspects, the official said authorities recovered a handful of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including one in the possession of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. All of the devices appeared to be homemade "fused" explosives.

Police took Tamerlan Tsarnaev to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center following the gunfight with police, at about 1:20 a.m. Friday. Dr. David Schoenfeld said medical personnel tried to revive him. He had multiple gunshot wounds as well as burn and gaping blast wounds that appeared to have come from an explosive device strapped to his body.

lnvestigators have not found any formal links so far to an international terror group. Law enforcement officials are investigating the brothers' possible link to a third person, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly. The identity of that person was not immediately clear.

The shootings and Dzhokar's escape prompted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to order the city of Boston and its surrounding suburbs locked down and its residents to remain in their homes. Businesses in Watertown, Newton, Waltham, Belmont, Cambridge and the Alston and Brighton neighborhoods of Boston were requested to remain closed and residents to remain indoors until the suspect is caught. Massachusetts shut down all mass transit, including buses and trains, in Boston and surrounding suburbs, Kurt Schwartz, director of Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said.

The Tsarnaevs are believed to have moved to the USA from war-torn Chechnya in 2003, along with other family members. Tamerlan attended Bunker Hill Community College in nearby Charlestown as a part-time student for three semesters from 2006 to 2008, studying accounting.

In an telephone interview from Russian with the Associated Press, the brothers' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said Dzhokhar is "a true angel" and "an intelligent boy."

Ruslan Tsarni, an uncle who had not spoken to his brother's sons in several months, urged Dzhokhar to turn himself in to authorities. Meeting with reporters Friday, Tsani said he believed the brothers may have been recently "radicalized." Tsarni says he was unaware of any military or weapons training they may have received. Tsarni called the brothers "losers" and said they had brought his family shame.

Their names were not known to law enforcement officials before the bombings, which killed three people and wounded 176. Authorities are reviewing the brothers' possible ties to Chechnya -- an area of Russia plagued by Islamic insurgency -- a law enforcement official who is not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have dropped a backpack laden with explosives at the site of Monday's second explosion. He was pictured wearing a white baseball cap in video images released by the FBI Thursday. His page on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte says he attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, graduating in 2011, the year he won a $2,500 college scholarship from the city of Cambridge. On the website, his world view is described as "Islam" and he says his personal goal is "career and money."

Larry Aaronson, a neighbor and retired history teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, got to know Dzhokhar while taking photos of the high school wrestling team and other school activities.

"It's completely out of his character," Aaronson said of Dzhokhar's alleged role in the bombings. "Everything about him was wonderful. He was completely outgoing, very engaged, he loved the school. He was grateful not to be in Chechnya."

Dzhokhar was not overtly political or religious, Aaronson says. "He spoke and acted like any other high school kid."

Aaronson says he can't reconcile the young man he knows with the characterizations he's seeing in the media. "I cannot do it," he says. "I mean this from the deepest part of my heart: It's not possible it's the same person. It's just not possible."

The manhunt for the marathon bombing suspects turned into hot pursuit at 10:30 p.m. Thursday, when the two men robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge. Minutes later, an MIT campus police officer was shot multiple times as he was sitting in his car. He was later pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was identified Friday as Sean Collier, 26, an MIT police officer since January 2012 and previously a civilian employee at the Somerville Police Department.

The suspects carjacked a Mercedes SUV between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m, holding the driver at gunpoint for a half hour before he was shoved from the car unharmed. A federal law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said the men allegedly told the driver that they were the Marathon bombers.

The official said the suspects' allegedly acknowledged their roles in the Marathon bombings as a form of intimidation and boast.

Police found the car and the suspects in Watertown, and pursued them into a residential neighborhood where gunfire was exchanged.

A transit police officer, Richard H. Donohue Jr., 33, was shot during the firefight. He is reported in critical condition, police said.

Witnesses report hearing many gunshots.

Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Timothy Alben said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot by police in a gunfight following a pursuit that began late Thursday night in Cambridge and ended a short time later in Watertown. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Alben said the suspects also threw explosives from the car. Residents, witnesses and media in the area heard at least two large booms.

"I heard sirens, then a ton of gunshots," said Adam Healy, 31, a behavioral specialist for autism who lives less than a mile from the scene. "And then I heard an explosion amid the gunshots. After the explosion, the sky lit up."

Dan MacDonald, 40, sitting in a second-story Watertown apartment, said he first heard sirens, then gunshots.

"It was about 10 to 15 shots. then there was an onslaught," he said. "There were 25 to 60 shots within 45 seconds. Then the shots stopped and boom. It was like dynamite."

Alvi Tsarnaev, another uncle of the suspects, said Friday that Tamerlan phoned him Thursday night at about 7 p.m., the first time they had spoken in about two years.

"He said, 'I love you and forgive me,' " said Alvi Tsarnaev, who lives in Montgomery Village, Md. He wasn't seeking forgiveness for the bombing, but asking for forgiveness because he hadn't spoken to him in so long.

"We were not talking for a long time because there were some problems," Alvi Tsarnaev said without elaborating. "We were not happy with each other."

They spoke for about five minutes, he said. Tamerlan, who is Muslim, started out by saying, "Salam Aleikum," an Arabic greeting meaning "peace on you." He then praised his uncle for keeping up with his Muslim prayers.

"He told me he was happy," he said. "He was asking, 'Did you pay your mortgage?' I told him I was trying to pay. I asked him what he was doing. He said, 'I fix cars, I got married, got a baby.'

"Killing innocent people, I cannot forgive that," Alvi Tsarnaev said. "It's crazy. I don't believe it now even. How can I forgive this?"

The Lowell Sun reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a Golden Gloves boxer who told the newspaper that "I like the USA" after winning his first fight in 2004 in Lowell. He fought in the 178-pound novice class.

According to the Sun, Tamerlan and his family moved to the USA in 2003, hoping to start a new life after leaving Grozny, Chechnya, much of which was destroyed in the conflict with Russia. "America has a lot of jobs. That's something Russia doesn't have. You have a chance to make money here if you are willing to work," he told The Sun.

Contributing: John Bacon and Mary Beth Marklein in McLean, Va.; Yamiche Alcindor and Melanie Eversley in Boston, William Welch in Los Angeles, Judy Keen in Chicago and Shawn Cohen of The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News.

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