Washington, May 2 (IANS) In a new twist to the Boston Marathon bombing probe, three friends of surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and charged with trying to throw investigators off their buddy’s trail.
Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan and Robel Phillipos, an American citizen, were Wednesday accused of taking away a laptop, some empty fireworks and a jar of Vaseline from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Federal prosecutors said they took these items from Tsarnaev’s room after they quickly recognized their friend from the pictures released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the two suspects Dzhokhar, 19, and his older brother Tamerlan, 26.
When Kadyrbayev texted his friend to tell him “he looked like the suspect on television,” Tsarnaev texted back “lol” and added, “come to my room and take whatever you want,” according to FBI affidavits as cited by CNN.
Phillipos, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev went to the room, where Kadyrbayev noticed a backpack containing fireworks that had been “opened and emptied of powder,” according to the affidavit.
“Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the marathon bombing,” the affidavit states according to a CNN report.
They left with the backpack, the Vaseline — which Tazhayakov believed could be used to make bombs — and Tsarnaev’s laptop, it added.
By the time they got back to the apartment in New Bedford that Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev shared, the Tsarnaev brothers had been named as bomb suspects, and the three friends “started to freak out,” Phillipos recounted after what the affidavit stated had been four previous interviews.
“According to Kadyrbayev, they collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble,” the affidavit added.
Investigators found the pack, fireworks and Vaseline in a landfill last week after a two-day search. The complaint doesn’t state what happened to the laptop.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were already in federal custody on immigration charges. They’re charged with obstruction of justice, while Phillipos, is charged with lying to federal agents probing the bombing.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev appear in a photograph with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev taken in New York’s Times Square during an earlier visit, CNN said..
About a month before the marathon attack, Tsarnaev had told Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov “that he knew how to make a bomb,” according to an FBI affidavit recounting the charges.
Kadyrbayev told investigators that Tsarnaev “appeared to have given himself a short haircut” two days after the bombings.
One of the reasons Kadyrbayev drew investigators’ attention was because of changes to his Facebook page, CNN citing a source briefed on the Boston probe reported.
Kadyrbayev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev changed their profile photos within 15 minutes of each other in the pre-dawn hours of April 19, while the Tsarnaevs were on the run, the source told the news channel.
Tsarnaev, who appears to have had access to a wireless device at that time, changed his to a black-and-white photo, while Kadyrbayev changed his photo to one of him wearing an Iron Man mask, the source said.
Meanwhile, after the arrest of the three new suspects in the Boston bombing, senator John McCain, a key member of the Senate Gang of Eight called for Congress to take a closer look in the holes of the immigration system.
“Maybe it’s part of … overall immigration reform. We should look at the process of who is allowed into this country, under what circumstances, what is their situation and background,” he told Fox News Wednesday.