Boston Marathon suspect's remains claimed; officials told to verify int'l student visas after arrests
The brothers considered setting off their bombs on July Fourth, the surviving suspect told interrogators after he was arrested, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. But when they finished assembling the bombs, they decided to carry out the attack sooner and settled on the Boston Marathon, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Investigators believe some of the explosives used in the attack were assembled in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's home, though there may have been some assembly elsewhere, one of the officials said. At this point, it does not appear that the brothers ever had big, definitive plans, the official said.
The brothers' mother insists the allegations against them are lies.
Three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends, college classmates, were arrested Wednesday and accused of helping after the marathon bombing to remove a laptop and backpack from his dormitory room before the FBI searched it.
A top Republican senator on Thursday asked President Barack Obama's administration to explain how one of the students entered the United States without a valid student visa.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, asked for additional details about the student visa applications for Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, college roommates from Kazakhstan charged with obstruction of justice, and how Tazhayakov was allowed to re-enter the United States in January.
Tazhayakov was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth when he left the U.S. in December. In early January, his student visa status was terminated because he was academically dismissed by the university.
The student visa for Azamat Tazhayakov had been terminated when he arrived in New York on Jan. 20. But the border agent in the airport did not have access to the information about it in the Homeland Security Department's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
According to an internal memorandum obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the Homeland Security Department is now telling officials to verify that every international student has a non-immigrant student visa before being allowed into the U.S. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston bombings.
A spokesman for the department, Peter Boogaard, said earlier this week that the government was working to fix the problem, which allowed Tazhayakov to be admitted into the country when he returned to the U.S.
The third student arrested, Robel Phillipos, was charged with willfully making materially false statements to federal law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation.
All three men charged in connection with the case began attending UMass Dartmouth with Tsarnaev in 2011, according to the FBI.
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.
The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were just as shocked by it as everyone else. Phillipos' attorney said the only allegation against him was "he made a misrepresentation."
In other developments:
Federal, state and local authorities on Friday searched the woods near the UMass-Dartmouth campus as part of the marathon investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, says could not say what investigators were looking for but said residents should know there is no threat to public safety.
Police and politicians across the U.S. are pointing to the example of surveillance video that was used to help identify the Boston Marathon bombing suspects as a reason to get more electronic eyes on their streets. They want to gain police access to cameras used to monitor traffic, expand surveillance networks in some major cities and enable officers to get regular access to security footage at businesses.
At an interfaith service Thursday night, a member of the executive board of the mosque where the bombing suspects prayed condemned the attacks. Anwar Kazmi said the bombings were a "grotesque perversion of the teaching of our faith."
Associated Press writers Pete Yost, Eileen Sullivan and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington; Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles; and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston contributed to this report.
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