Canadian Security Magazine

U.S. transfixed by hunt for surviving brother suspected in marathon blast

By The Canadian Press   

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WASHINGTON — Americans were on the edge of their seats Friday as heavily armed police swarmed the streets of Boston and its suburbs on the hunt for one of two Russian-born Chechen brothers suspected in the bloody marathon bombings.

The developments transfixed a nation in the midst of a dreadful week as they watched the unprecedented spectacle of a beloved, bustling American city locked down and at a standstill amid a high-profile manhunt.

In overnight dramatics that seemed lifted from a Hollywood action movie, the brothers allegedly killed a security guard at a downtown university, hurled explosives at police during a rollicking car chase into the Boston suburbs and then engaged in a gun battle that left one of them dead and the other at large.

The city and its suburbs were completely locked down by Friday morning as police continued to pursue 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, died in a hail of gunfire while reportedly challenging police in suburban Watertown.

Details about the two brothers, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2002, emerged at a fast and furious pace as family and associates spoke openly to news media and social media disclosed a treasure trove of personal details.


The brothers were from Dagestan, which borders Chechnya in southern Russia, and initial reports suggest they were adrift after their parents returned to Russia.

One uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, was asked outside his Maryland home what would have provoked his nephews. “Being losers,” he replied angrily.

Tamerlan, a boxer, was the subject of a photo essay entitled “Will Box For Passport” taken before he competed at National Golden Gloves competition in Salt Lake City in 2010.

“I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them,” he said, according to the caption on one of the photos.

Outside his home in Montgomery Village, Tsarni urged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an avid wrestler who was by most accounts more popular than his older brother, to give himself up.

“Dzhokhar, if you are alive, turn yourself in, ask forgiveness from these people,” Tsarni said at an impromptu news conference outside his home.

“You brought shame on our family, the entire Chechnya people. You put this shame on our entire ethnicity.”

Tsarni, a Muslim, said the bombings have nothing to do with religion or Islam.

Chechens are Russians by citizenship but not by nationality. Famously tough fighters, they complain of frequent discrimination against them by Russians.

Chechnya has been the scene of two wars between Russian forces and separatists since 1994. The conflicts kicked off an Islamic insurgency in the region.

On his page on Vkontatke  — the Russian-language equivalent of Facebook — Dzhokar Tsarnaev tells a joke.

“A car is driving down a street. In it are a Chechen, an Ingush and a Dagestani. Question: Who’s behind the wheel? Answer: a cop.”

By noon on Friday, a sea of law enforcement officers had surrounded the Cambridge, Mass., home where the brothers grew up. Police said they feared it could be booby-trapped with explosives and were preparing to conduct a controlled explosion.

Subways and buses were shut down while Amtrak service to Boston was halted. Harvard University, Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Emerson University were all closed and students were told to stay inside.

The University of Massachusetts’ Dartmouth campus was also evacuated. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student there and had a dorm room at the school. Two students told CBS News that they’d seen him on campus this week.

Tips about the identity of the brothers began pouring into the FBI soon after the agency released their images publicly, the agency said.

Within hours, the FBI alleges the Tsarnaev brothers had robbed a convenience store and gunned down MIT police officer Sean Collier, 26, as he sat in his cruiser at 10:20 p.m. Collier had not drawn his weapon.

The brothers then hijacked a Mercedes SUV, holding the driver captive for a half-hour while they reportedly tried to use his cash card to get money from three bank machines. They managed to withdraw $800 at one ATM.

The man was released unharmed at a gas station in Cambridge, sources said. As the suspects sped in his car toward Watertown, police gave chase as explosive devices were tossed at them out the window.

— Lee-Anne Goodman

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