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October 25, 2014

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FBI: Friends removed backpack from Boston suspect’s dorm room

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Charles Krupa / AP

Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following an explosion in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013.

Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2013 | 5:21 p.m.

Boston Marathon Explosion

In this Monday, April 15, 2013 photo, Boston Firefighter James Plourde carries an injured girl away from the scene after a bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston. The FBI's investigation into the bombings at the Boston Marathon was in full swing Tuesday, with authorities serving a warrant on a suburban Boston home and appealing for any private video, audio and still images of the blasts that killed at least three and wounded more than 170. Launch slideshow »

Boston Manhunt

A crowd gathers at Boston Common after the final suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was arrested, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Boston. Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured in Watertown, Mass. Launch slideshow »

BOSTON — Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and accused Wednesday of trying to protect him by going into his dorm room and getting rid of a backpack filled with hollowed-out fireworks three days after the deadly attack.

The three 19-year-olds were not accused of any role in the bombing. But in a footnote in the court papers outlining the charges, the FBI said that about a month before the tragedy, Tsarnaev told two of them that he knew how to make a bomb.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both of whom came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying evidence. Robel Phillipos, who graduated from a Cambridge high school with Tsarnaev, was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to Tsarnaev's room.

According to the FBI account, just hours after surveillance camera photos of the Boston Marathon suspects were flashed around the world April 18, Tsnarnaev's friends suspected he was one of the bombers and removed the backpack along with a laptop from Tsarnaev's room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

One of them later threw the backpack in the garbage, and it wound up in a landfill, where it was discovered by law enforcement officers last week, authorities said. In the backpack were fireworks that had been emptied of their gunpowder.

The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were just as shocked by the crime as everyone else. Phillipos' attorney, Derege Demissie, said outside court: "The only allegation is he made a misrepresentation."

At a court appearance, the Kazakh students did not request bail and will be held for another hearing May 14. Phillipos was held for a hearing on Monday. If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.

Three people were killed and more than 260 wounded on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the marathon's finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after a gunfight with police days later. His 19-year-old brother was captured and lies in a prison hospital. Their mother has said the allegations against them are lies.

Investigators have not said whether the pressure cooker bombs used in the attacks were made with gunpowder extracted from fireworks.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov have been in jail for more than a week on allegations they were in violation of their student visas, one because he was skipping classes, the other because he was no longer enrolled. All three men charged Wednesday began attending UMass with Tsarnaev in 2011, according to the FBI.

Tazhayakov was allowed to return to the U.S. from Kazakhstan in January despite not having a valid student visa, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. His student visa status had been terminated because he was academically dismissed from the university, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FBI said that before Tsarnaev's roommate let the three friends into the room, Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that read: "I'm about to leave if you need something in my room take it," according to the FBI. When Tazhayakov learned of the message, "he believed he would never see Tsarnaev alive again," the FBI said in the affidavit.

It was unclear from the court papers whether authorities believe that was an instruction from Tsarnaev to destroy evidence.

Once inside Tsarnaev's room, the men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of gunpowder, the FBI said. The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack "to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble."

Kadyrbayev also decided to remove Tsarnaev's laptop "because he did not want Tsarnaev's roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack," the FBI said.

After the three returned to Kadyrbayev's and Tazhayakov's apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The FBI said Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble."

Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men's apartment, according to court papers.

When the backpack was later found, inside it was a UMass-Dartmouth homework assignment sheet from a class Tsarnaev was taking, the FBI said.

The court papers do not say what happened to the laptop.

In a footnote, the FBI said: "Tazhayakov also informed the FBI agents that while eating a meal with Dzhokhar and Kadrybayev approximately one month prior to the marathon bombing, Dzhokhar had explained to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov that he knew how to make a bomb."

Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, said his client "absolutely denies the charges" and didn't know that the backpack and fireworks were part of the bombing case. Kadyrbayev is "just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is," the lawyer said.

He also denied that Kadyrbayev instantly recognized Tsarnaev's photo and said Kadyrbayev didn't know Tsarnaev was involved in the bombing: "His first inkling came much later," he said.

Tazhayakov's lawyer, Harlan Protass, said Tazhayakov "feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone he knew at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth was involved with the Boston Marathon bombing."

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov lived at an off-campus apartment in New Bedford, about 60 miles south of Boston, and got around in a car registered to Kadyrbayev with a souvenir plate that read "Terrorista (hash)1." The car was pictured on Tsarnaev's Twitter feed in March.

The plate was a gag gift from some of Kadyrbayev's friends, meant to invoke his penchant for late-night partying rather than his political sentiments, Kadyrbayev's lawyer said last week.

Michael McKeown, 20, attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School with Tsarnaev and Phillipos.

"He wasn't a stupid kid," the Boston University sophomore said of Phillipos. "I'm surprised he would do something this foolish."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; Lynn Berry in Moscow; Arsen Mollyaev in Makhachkala, Russia; and Eric Tucker, Alicia A. Caldwell, Eileen Sullivan and AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington.

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  1. Perhaps repatriating these young men to their homeland with a short, but hopefully productive visit, to KGB headquarters in Moscow would save us the cost of multiple trials, appeals, anguished weeping from Momma, denials of guilt, accusations of set-ups, etc.

  2. One of the suspects drove a BMW with a front license plate that read "Terrorista 1".

    I assume it was a plastic non DMV type.

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/01/new-bo...

  3. Way to go mo-fo terrorist buddies. You are who you hang with.

  4. Taxpayers pay for higher ed--the university systems of each State. So we are paying for all these foreigners to obtain higher ed--and look what a good job the U's are doing with their application process. Media says thousands of people who get student visas never show up for class? How many of those "students" are in the country? Where is that database of ALL foreigners on American soil????? We have NO OBLIGATION to let anyone in. I'm not suggesting isolationism but let's get practical. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between isolationism and intelligent cost-effective useful mechanisms, databases, laws, regulations.

  5. From Dartmouth to the dung heap. Tamerlan Tsarnaev became devoted to his religion and began praying 5 times a day. Timothy McVeigh, a Branch Davidian was totally involved with his religion. Both believed the Government was destroying their faith. Same goals, different lapel pins.

  6. A pox on the Osama Obama's administration's lack of enforcement of our immigration laws. Under the tutelage of the moron, Eric Holder, illegals seemingly are impervious to being held accountable and, in many cases, even the worst are not deported. DUI, visa violations, student no-shows. Makes no difference. They are allowed to slide and hide and we get teary-eyed and tired excuses instead of enforcement. What's it going to take to rein in the horde of illegals crossing our borders? Another 9/11? Boston should be a wake-up call. So far, it's just another day in Paradise as far as the Commie-lites are concerned!

  7. They should be deported, or perhaps just be terminated, quick and easy.