In dramatic and violent overnight developments, one of two suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings was killed in a gunfight with the police, and a massive manhunt was under way for the second man.
According to reports, the dead man is Chechen-origin Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is on the run.
Both men, said to be legal residents in the U.S., were identified by Boston Police and federal authorities on Thursday afternoon from CCTV footage, which showed them walking through a crowded section of the audience watching the marathon. The video showed both carrying backpacks and wearing baseball hats. Around 5 p.m. Boston time (2.30 a.m. in India), the FBI released photographs of two suspects. Suspect One was wearing a black baseball cap, and Suspect Two a white one, and the face of Suspect Two was clear enough to recognise. He was the one who the FBI said had dropped a bag near the marathon finish line, just before one of the blasts. The FBI asked for help from the public to identify the suspects.
While details of the events of the night are still sketchy, they appear to have unfolded as follows: shortly after 10 p.m., a 7-Eleven convenience store was robbed, apparently by the Tsarnaev brothers. Then, a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was said to have been fatally shot multiple times in his car by the duo.
After engaging in an armed carjacking, in which the occupant of the car was said to have been held hostage but “miraculously” released unharmed, the Tsarnaevs were said to have been engaged by the police in Boston’s Watertown suburb.
In the ensuing gunfight, a second police officer reportedly sustained serious injuries. Sections of the media put out images of what was said to be the Tsarnaevs’ “bullet-riddled SUV.” Gunfire and explosions were heard through the night, Watertown residents said.
However, in that exchange, Tamerlan, labelled as ‘Suspect 1’ and seen wearing a black hat in the initial CCTV footage, was said to have been critically wounded and died at a local hospital later. Tamerland Tsarnaev was said to have died from “blast and bullet wounds,” with authorities quoted by media saying he carried explosives on his person and also had an “explosive trigger” mechanism.
By Friday morning local time, there appeared to be a tense standoff on Norfolk Street at Watertown, after heavily armed SWAT teams and other police units converged there and surrounded a house said to be the residence of the younger Tsarnaev. At one point, a dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents with assault rifles emerged from a home; however they did not have anyone in custody.
While numerous reports said the two men were originally from Chechnya, there was some ambiguity about this. In a media interview, an uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers, Ruslan Tsarni, said they had grown up in Kyrgyzstan, others adding that they had come to the U.S. from Turkey. He said to media channels: “I just wish they never existed on this earth,” adding that they had been in the U.S. for at least seven years.
In a report, the Associated Press said it had reached the brothers’ father in Russia, and he said Dzhokhar was “a true angel... a second-year medical student in the U.S. [and] such an intelligent boy.” Unconfirmed media reports, including one by NBC news, said the Tsarnaev brothers had “international ties” and “military experience.”
A photo-journal essay of Tamerlan painted a picture of a lonely, unhappy and isolated man with a sense of being lost in the cultural milieu of the U.S. The essay said Tamerlan “fled Chechnya with his family because of the conflict in the early 90s, and lived for years in Kazakhstan before getting to the U.S. as a refugee.”
After five years in the U.S., Tamerlan said to the essay’s author, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them,” adding, “God said no alcohol... There are no values anymore... people can’t control themselves.” One media outlet, Mother Jones, carried a report saying Tamerlan had posted a video on the YouTube website, “extolling an extremist religious prophecy” associated with al-Qaeda.
On Friday morning Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick asked people who live in the entire Boston area and its suburbs to “shelter in place.” “This is a serious situation. We’re taking it seriously,” he said.
The manhunt for Dzhokhar also led to the sudden shutdown of the area’s network of commuter rail, bus, and subway services, besides taxi services, media reports noted. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Authority was said to have ordered a 3.5-nautical-mile temporary flight restriction over Boston “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.”