The Boston police department announced on its Twitter feed on Wednesday that “three additional suspects” had been into custody in relation to the marathon bombing. In a later statement, the police played down fears of any risk of further attacks by saying “there is no threat to the public”.
The FBI said the three men went to college with the surviving Boston bombing suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Two of them, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, who came to the US from Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. The third detainee, Robel Phillipos, a US citizen, was charged with making false statements to federal investigators.
The three men are accused of removing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack from his dorm room after the bombing. They are not accused of taking part in the planning of the attacks.
In the days after the bombings, law enforcement officers detained and questioned three college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, including Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, in New Bedford. The three were released, but the Kazakh pair were later taken back into custody and held by immigration authorities, accused of having overstayed their student visas.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, classmates of Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, appeared in an immigration court on Wednesday morning to face the visa violation charges. During the hearing it was revealed that Kadyrbayev was expelled from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for low grades. Tazhayakov is still enrolled at the university.
Linda Cristello, a Boston attorney who represented the pair at the immigration court hearing, told the Associated Press that her clients now face separate federal charges and have an afternoon court appearance related to the bombing case.
Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for US attorney Carmen Ortiz, told reporters gathered outside the federal court in Boston that the charges were expected to be unsealed Wednesday afternoon when the accused make their initial appearance before a magistrate judge.
The two Kazakh men were shown in a widely-published photograph standing beside Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Times Square, New York.
Robert Stahl, Aa lawyer for Kadyrbayev, said he would release a statement about the arrests after charges had been read out in federal court in Boston, possibly as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Stahl, a New Jersey-based attorney who specializes in clients from the former USSR, told the Huffington Post last week: “These kids are just as shocked and horrified about what happened as everyone else.”
In the two weeks since the bombing, more than 1,000 FBI agents have been dedicated to the task of finding out how the bombings were planned and crucially whether there was a wider network of support behind the bombers. In the fall-out from the attacks, Dzhokhar’s elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 26, was killed in a police shoot-out.
Early indications from the inquiry have pointed to the brothers acting largely alone, though federal agents continue to look closely at a six-months trip taken last year by Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the troubled region of Dagestan in Russia where his parents live.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Katherine Russell, said she has declined to claim his body and instead authorised his family to collect it.
Amato DeLuca, who is representing Katherine Russell, said in a statement Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev’s body and that she wants it released to the Tsarnaev family.
An uncle of the brothers, Ruslan Tsarni, told the Associated Press that the family would take the body. “Of course, family members will take possession of the body,” said Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Maryland. “We’ll do it. We will do it. A family is a family.” He did not give any further details of the arrangements.
DeLuca said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow met law enforcement officials “for many hours over the past week” and would continue cooperating. FBI agents on Monday visited her parents’ home in North Kingstown, Rhode Island where she has been staying, and carried away several bags.
Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday evening that the state had not yet received Russell’s request to release her husband’s body.