An ethnic Chechen Islamist suspect linked to the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing was captured Friday night and his brother died earlier following a massive police manhunt involving car chases and a shootout that with police that included an exchange of of some 200 gunshots.
The dramatic conclusion to the bombings ended shortly before 9:00 p.m. in Watertown, Mass., a Boston suburb, when a wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of two bombing suspects, was taken to a hospital after trying to hide out a trailered boat parked in a driveway.
Boston police commissioner Ed Davis told reporters Tsarnaev was discovered Friday evening after a person in the Watertown neighborhood noticed blood on the parked boat, lifted a tarp covering it and saw Tsarnaev inside covered with blood. The person left the scene and called police. That led to the capture several hours later.
“We have a suspect in custody,” Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police said last night. “We’re exhausted, folks, but we have a victory today.” Tsarnaev is in serious condition, he added.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the investigation is continuing into the case and formal charges will be filed against Tsarnaev. “Tonight we can sleep easier,” she said.
Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge in Boston, said the five days since the bombing felt like “many months.”
“Today, the city of Boston, the city of Cambridge and the city of Watertown can breath a sigh of relief,” DesLauriers said. “This was truly an absolutely intense investigation. As a result, justice is being served for these terrible crimes.”
DesLauriers thanked the news media for its help in publicizing the identities of the two bombing suspects.
President Barack Obama said in the White House briefing room after last night’s capture that he has ordered an investigation into why the two men turned to violence in what he called a “vicious attack,” and whether they received foreign assistance.
Obama said he instructed the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community to “deploy all necessary resources” in the case.
“We will determine what happened,” the president said. “We will investigate any association that these terrorists may have had, and we’ll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe.”
Reflecting the views of White House Islamic outreach advisers, Obama warned against criticizing “groups” as a result of the Islamist terror attacks.
The capture ended a massive four-day manhunt for the two ethnic Chechens—a region in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia that has been a hotbed of Islamist extremism.
The two men had been sought for planting two homemade bombs placed in pressure cookers near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Earlier, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed when the SVU his brother was driving backed over him. The brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, emigrated to the United States about a decade ago.
U.S. officials said the men represent a classic case of Islamist radicals who acted on their beliefs to wage jihad, or holy war, against the United States.
Dzhokhar’s Russian VK social networking page lists his “world view” as “Islam,” evidence that the two terrorists are what authorities are calling radicalized Islamists.
Officials said Chechnya is 90 percent Muslim although it appears the Tsarnaev brothers were not devout, based on their social media profiles. Tamerlan had told associates that he had given up drinking and he reportedly traveled to Russia last year for six months.
Al Qaeda terrorists were known to be searching for radicalized Islamists with Caucasian facial features to conduct terrorist operations in Europe and the United States as a way to better defeat security measures designed to look for Middle Eastern nations.
Government authorities in Kyrgyzstan said the brothers were of Chechen ethnicity who were born in the central Asian state and later emigrated to Daegestan, Russia, and then the United States.
Details on how the two men were radicalized and plotted to bomb the marathon are being investigated. The bombing killed three people and injured more than 180, many of them critically.
A U.S. government specialist said the two men fit the profile of disaffected Muslim immigrants who were radicalized through Islamic clerics and other jihadists and who turned to terrorism as part of their beliefs.
“This is the pattern we are going to see more of,” the official said.
Anzor Tsarnaev told news reporters in Russia that his sons were being framed by U.S. authorities. He invoked “Allah” in defending his sons and said Tamerlan had been in Russia last year to renew his passport.
Chechnya is an enclave in the north Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia. Moscow launched two wars against the enclave to counter what it said were terrorist activities by Islamist separatists seeking the creation of an independent state.
Chechen terrorists carried out an attack on a school in Beslan in the North Caucasus in 2004 that ended with the deaths of 380 people, many of them children.
U.S. officials said the FBI is expected to play down the Islamist ties of the two men as a result of Obama administration policies that seek to play down the Islamist nature of terrorism. “They will identify them as Chechens, but not Muslims,” said one official.
Hundreds of police and tactical units combed Boston and outlying areas trying to locate Dzhokhar as of Friday evening as authorities shut down the city of Boston during the hunt and urged residents to stay indoors.
Earlier, Col. Timothy Alben, supintentdent of the Massachusetts State Police, told reporters that there was “much work left to be done” including ballistics and forensics work on the case.
The two men had used homemade pipe bombs against pursuing police at one point Friday and the bombs had to be removed.
The siege was lifted late Friday hours before the last suspect was captured.
“We are asking the public to remain vigilant and to be alert to suspicious activity,” said Gov. Deval Patrick. “There is still a very very dangerous individual at large.”
According to a knowledgeable U.S. official, Tamerlan was severely injured after his brother backed over him in a hijacked SUV. He later died at an area hospital.
Police said the two men were the target of a shootout around 1:00 a.m. after the brothers were spotted near a convenience store and later killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer.
At one point during a chase in a stolen car, the two men threw pipe bomb explosive devices at pursuing police.
By 6:00 a.m. Friday, residents in Watertown, Newton, Waltham, Belmont, Cambridge, Arlington, and the Allston-Brighton neighborhoods of Boston were told to stay indoors and all bus and subway transit was halted.
The Boston Globe reported that three peole were taken into custody in New Bedford, Mass., as part of the marathon bombing investigation.
News reports also said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was questioned by the FBI in 2011 at the request of a foreign government over possible terrorist ties. However, the FBI cleared him of the allegations.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Joseph Myers, a specialist in Islamist extremism, said a review of the brothers’ social media sites reveals links to radical Islamists, including Sheik Feiz, a Lebanese-born Muslim and advocate of jihad.
“Feiz was featured in a British public television documentary called Undercover Mosque where he stated in Friday prayers: ‘The peak, the pinnacle, the crest, the highest point, the pivot, the summit of Islam is jihad,’” Myers said in an email.
“Make no mistake Feiz is talking about warfighting not internal reflection and meditation.”
Myers said Feiz is similar to the dead American jihadist and al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki would endorse.
“Feiz exhorts Muslim to fight global jihad and encouraged Muslim youth to become soldiers of Allah and to defend Islam,” Myers said.
Feiz currently resides in Australia.
Myers also said he suspects the brothers were not “self-radicalized.”
“There is never an actor fully alone…there are other people involved in the indoctrination, recruitment, training and ‘spiritual sanctioning’ of these Islamic jihad attacks,” he said. “It is not something that is just in the water….but these people drink from an ideological well that frankly our military and political leadership willingly and continuingly refuse to confront and that intellectual cowardice keeps America vulnerable.”