Did They Have Help?

Saturday, 20 Apr 2013 02:47 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Terrorism experts are still trying to determine if Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were working alone or if they were part of a larger terrorist cell.

In addition, they're trying to determine how the brothers came up with the money to drive expensive vehicles, even though the older sibling was an aspiring boxer and the younger was a college student, reports The Boston Herald.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a gunfight with police early Friday, and his younger brother, 19, remains hospitalized in serious condition for wounds from the gunfight and Friday night's arrest.

Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hospitalized Saturday in serious but stable condition after having been found wounded and bloody the night before hiding in a boat parked behind a home in Watertown, a Boston suburb authorities had shut down to conduct house-by-house searches.

U.S. officials said a special interrogation team for high-value suspects would question Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights, invoking a rare public-safety exception triggered by the need to protect police and the public from immediate danger.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was concerned about that. It said the exception applies only when there's a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception" to the Miranda rule, which guarantees a suspect the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Federal public defenders in Massachusetts have agreed to represent Tsarnaev and said they expect to do so after he is charged.

The FBI said a foreign government told it in early 2011 about information that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was a follower of radical Islam.

According to the FBI, the foreign government said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States to join unspecified underground groups. The FBI says it interviewed him and relatives and didn't find any terrorism activity.

Meanwhile, experts are continuuing to comb through hard drives on the brothers' computers and interviewing their families and friends to learn who their contacts are, said James Forest, director of the Center for Security Research and Technologies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

But the fact that the suspects chose a target like the Boston Marathon's finish line, which would be broadcast all over the world, may indicate more outside involvement, he said.

“They knew that when it blew up it would be captured,” Forest said. “We rarely see that type of media amplification among the lone wolf types,” said Forest. Insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan typically film their attacks and put the videos online so more people will see them.

Security consultant Arnold Bogis said that even though he hasn't heard of any well-organized terrorist cells being broken up since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the possibility remains.

Being part of a terrorist cell doesn't always mean taking part in an attack, he said, as “a cell would be other people who helped the suspects, whether that’s logistics, money or food. It’s quite possible for a small group or even one person to cause this kind of havoc.”

Forest, though, noted that nobody has taken credit for the bombing, which is unusual among terrorists or even so-called lone wolves.

Bogis said it’s possible the brothers were working alone, because the materials in their homemade bombs were inexpensive.

However, the brothers were living a wealthy lifestyle, others near them noted, including driving new Porsches, Range Rovers and Mercedes.

They are accused of carjacking a driver's Mercedes SUV early Friday morning, but that may have been because they couldn't get to their own vehicle in time.

A Cambridge car repair owner, Gilbert Junior, said on Tuesday, one of the brothers came to his shop, demanding to get his girlfriend's car – a 2006 Mercedes wagon in the shop for repairs – back quickly.

“The last time I saw Suspect No. 2 he had his girlfriend’s car, which they came to pick it up before the job was even done,” he said. “I saw him on Tuesday, this Tuesday. He was kind of biting his nail, and ‘I need the car, I need the car, I need the car,’ and I say, ‘Man, the car is not done.’”

Junior said the brothers were from Russia, but belonged to a group of friends from Turkey. He neve knew their names, but said they always paid him in cash.

“They drive new cars all the time, like Porsches, Range Rovers, all the time,” he said. “They change cars all the time,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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