Boston bomb suspect cannot speak as doctors treat throat wounds
Published 21/04/2013 | 13:40
DZHOKHAR Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect, remains unable to speak as he undergoes treatment for a gunshot wound to the throat in hospital, officials have said as inquiries focus on what turned two young men into Islamic terrorists.
The 19-year-old is "serious but stable. I think not able to communicate yet," Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts governor said after attending a tribute to the victims of Monday's bomb attacks that left three dead and about 180 injured.
CBS television quoted investigators as saying that Tsarnaev suffered two serious wounds and had lost a lot of blood. It said investigators had speculated that one wound in the back of his neck could have been a suicide attempt.
"They say it appears from the wound that he might have stuck a gun in his mouth and fired," said the report, which added that Tsarnaev could understand what those around him were saying.
Later, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said authorities may never be able to speak with him/
The suspect was in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center while U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the federal prosecutor for the Boston area, was working on filing criminal charges. An announcement on charges could come later on Sunday, he said.
Tsarnaev was shot in the throat and had tongue damage, said a source close to the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We don't know if we'll ever be able to question the individual," Menino told ABC's "This Week" program. He did not elaborate.
Tsarnaev was detained on Friday. His elder brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police earlier in the day during a massive manhunt.
Gov Patrick said he hopes the teenaged suspect survives. "We have a million questions and those questions need to be answered," he added.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a federal public defender raised concerns about investigators' plan to question Tsarnaev without reading him his rights.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said a legal emergency exception applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception" to the Miranda rule, which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
The FBI confirmed yesterday it had interviewed Tamerlan in 2011, at the request of an unidentified foreign government — later reported to be Russia — over suspected ties to an extremist group.
The questioning did not produce any “derogatory” information and the matter was put “to bed,” a US law enforcement source said.
The FBI’s contact with Tamerlan was described as “a sit-down interview where they asked him questions about contacts and surroundings”.
They are also likely to have conducted a standard background check on him, running his name through databases, checking on his communications and any overseas travel.
The FBI said in a statement: “The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
The matter was not pursued further, however, because interviews with Tamerlan and family members “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign”.
Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said: “It’s new information to me and it’s very disturbing that he’s on the FBI radar screen.”
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said: “They [the FBI] used to come [to our] home, they used to talk to me. They were telling me that he [Tamerlan] was really an extremist leader and that they were afraid of him. They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremist sites.
“They were controlling him, they were controlling his every step and now they say that this is a terrorist act. Never, ever is this true, my sons are innocent.” She added: “I am 100 per cent sure that this is a set-up. It’s impossible for both of them to do those things. If there was anyone who would know, it would be me.”
Dzhokhar’s capture triggered jubilant scenes across Boston and brought to an end a five-day drama in which police imposed an unprecedented lockdown across the city.
It also emerged on Saturday that Tamerlan’s wife was a Muslim convert from a middle-class Boston family.
Katherine Russell, 24, converted to Islam three years ago, after meeting Tamerlan and giving birth to their daughter Zahara. She was described by neighbours as an “all-American girl”. Dzhokhar, 19, was on Saturday night being treated for “serious but not life-threatening” injuries at a hospital in Boston. He suffered a severe loss of blood and was said to be too ill to talk to police about the motive for the attack.
The US Justice Department said on Saturday that Dzhokhar would not initially be read his rights, under a rare public safety exemption that allows officials to interrogate him and submit his statement in court without prior legal warning. An official said Dzhokhar could face a range of charges, including the use of weapons of mass destruction for his part in the detonation of a bomb. That charge carries a maximum penalty of death.
While Massachusetts has outlawed the death penalty, federal law allows it.
The brothers, ethnic Chechens who were apparently well integrated into US society, are suspected of having set off two bombs in pressure cookers packed with ball bearings and nails at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring nearly 180 more.
Among those who died was eight-year-old Martin Richard, whose family welcomed Dzhokhar’s capture. In a statement they said: “Tonight, our community is once again safe from these two men.”
However, further questions were raised when it was reported that Tamerlan left the US in January 2012 to travel to Russia, returning in mid-July.
An official at the Department of Homeland Security said he was on the “radar screen” of agents in Boston from when he returned to the US to the end of autumn.
The suspects’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, who lives in the Russian republic of Dagestan, also said the FBI had been watching his family and visited the brothers’ home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, five times, most recently 18 months ago, looking for Tamerlan. “They said there were doing preventive work. They were afraid there might be some explosions on the streets of Boston,” he said.
Tamerlan was allegedly one of a number of young Muslim men who were feared to have become radicalised at one of the city’s mosques.
National security and law enforcement authorities had said earlier that they had not turned up any evidence that the Tsarnaev brothers had contacts with al-Qaeda or other militants overseas.
On Saturday night, FBI agents led a woman wearing a hijab away from the apartment where the brothers had lived in Boston. One television channel said the woman was Tamerlan’s wife, although a neighbour said it was another relation.
Speaking after Dzhokhar’s capture, President Obama said there were still many unanswered questions. “Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?” He said the families of those killed deserve answers.
According to the Boston Globe, Dzhokhar attended a soccer party on Wednesday at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where other guests described him as looking relaxed.
While Tamerlan had a Green Card but was not a US citizen, Dzhokhar became a naturalised citizen during a ceremony on Sept 11 last year.
In announcing his arrest, Boston police posted a notice on Twitter at 1.30am GMT on Friday, stating: “Captured!!! The hunt is over.”
A Syrian government-backed group was accused of hacking various US accounts to send messages alleging that Barack Obama was covering up a government conspiracy. Tweets coming from CBS News were suspended after the 60 Minutes account claimed the US government was "hiding the real culprit of the Boston bombing."
- Damien McElroy and Philip Sherwell and Nick Allen, Telegraph.co.uk