WASHINGTON — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings told FBI interrogators he and his brother had considered suicide attacks and striking on the Fourth of July as they plotted their deadly assault, according to two law-enforcement officials.
The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, told investigators he and his brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was killed in a shootout with police, ultimately decided to use pressure-cooker bombs and other homemade explosive devices, the officials said.
The brothers finished building the bombs in Tamerlan’s apartment in Cambridge, Mass., more quickly than they had anticipated and so decided to accelerate their attack to the Boston Marathon on April 15, Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, from July, according to the account that Dzhokhar provided authorities. They picked the finish line of the marathon after driving around, according to this account.
In addition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told authorities that he and his brother viewed the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric who moved to Yemen and was killed in September 2011 by a U.S. drone strike. There is no indication the brothers had communicated with al-Awlaki.
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Tsarnaev made his admission April 21, two days after he was captured, to FBI agents who had been waiting outside his hospital room. After he regained consciousness, they questioned him, invoking what is known as the public-safety exception to the Miranda Rule, a procedure that allows interrogation after an arrest without notifying a prisoner of the right to remain silent. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev later invoked his right to remain silent.
The FBI moved forward Thursday with trying to determine the role that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, might have played in the plot or in helping the brothers evade the authorities after the attacks. As part of those efforts, the authorities have sought to determine whether fingerprints and DNA found on bomb fragments were from Russell. According to two other law-enforcement officials, Russell’s fingerprints and DNA do not match those found on the fragments. All of the law-enforcement officials were granted anonymity.
Federal authorities are skeptical of Russell’s insistence that she played no role in the attack or in helping the brothers elude the authorities after the FBI released photographs of them. That skepticism has been stoked by Russell’s decision in recent days to stop cooperating with authorities.
During the interrogation, Tsarnaev, who sustained a gunshot wound to the neck, had trouble speaking and answered several questions by writing on a piece of paper and nodding. He acknowledged having laid the bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 at the finish line of the marathon. He told the interrogators he and his brother had been motivated to strike against the U.S. partly because of its military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what the two saw as a broader conspiracy against Muslims. He also said he knew of no other plots and that he and his brother had acted alone and were not connected to a larger terrorist network, according to the account.
A funeral home retained by relatives of Tamerlan Tsarnaev claimed his body from the Massachusetts state medical examiner’s office Thursday, a spokesman for the Boston Department of Public Safety, Terrel Harris, said. He offered no details.