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Police descend on house in search for Boston bombing suspect

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sat, 20 Apr 2013 00:46 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Fugitive considered armed and dangerous * Brothers from Russia's restive Caucasus (Adds details on house, U.S. law enforcement 2001 interview with one suspect) By Aaron Pressman and Stephanie Simon WATERTOWN, Mass., April 19 (Reuters) - Police cars and armored vehicles surrounded a house in a Boston suburb on Friday where they believe the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings could be hiding out, possibly in a boat parked in the backyard, witnesses said. The apparent break in the investigation came after a day-long manhunt for a 19-year-old ethnic Chechen suspected in Monday's bombings. His older brother, also identified as a suspect, was killed in a shootout overnight. Shortly after police told a news conference that the suspect fled on foot and was still on the loose, a Reuters witness saw dozens of police and armored vehicles rush to the street and then gunfire was heard in Watertown. Another witness, a Watertown resident, saw men with machine guns on Franklin Street, which is less than a mile from the scene of the overnight shooting in which 200 rounds were fired and explosives set off. "There's about 50 guys there with machine guns and they all got bulletproof vests on, some of them are holding shields and they're all congregated on the far end of Franklin Street," said Anna Bedirian, who lives on the street. "There are a couple armored cars and they're all standing around." Officials identified the fugitive as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. Monday's bombing on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured 176, was described by President Barack Obama as "an act of terrorism." It was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001. Images showed that the house on which police were focusing on was white with three stories with a tarp-covered boat parked on a trailer in the backyard. Earlier on Friday, Colonel Timothy Alben told the news conference: "We do not have an apprehension of our suspect this afternoon. We remain committed to this." Alben said officers went door-to-door in Watertown and searched houses. Officials followed a number of leads that were not fruitful and there was "much work to be done" he said. U.S. government officials said the men had not previously been on the radar as possible militants. A U.S. law enforcement source said the FBI interviewed the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011 at the request of a foreign government. The source said no "derogatory" information was found and the matter was closed. During the search for the men on Friday, two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. SWAT teams moved through in formation, leaving an officer behind to ensure that searched homes remained secure, a law enforcement official said. The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty on Friday as the city went into lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transportation had been suspended and air space restricted. Famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said the "stay-in-place" order for Boston had been lifted and mass transit reopened as police pressed their search for Tsarnaev. 'PUT A SHAME ON OUR FAMILY' Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union. The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. A man who told reporters he was an uncle of the brothers said they came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area. Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in suburban Washington and said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009, said the bombings "put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity." In separate interviews, the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers said they believed their sons were incapable of carrying out the bombings. Others remembered the brothers as friendly and respectful youths who never stood out or caused alarm. "Somebody clearly framed them. I don't know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead," father Anzor Tsarnaev said in an interview with Reuters in Dagestan's provincial capital, Makhachkala, clasping his head in despair. The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered. The mother, Zubeidat Tsaraeva, speaking in English, told CNN, "It's impossible, impossible, for both of them to do such things, so I am really, really, really telling that this is a setup." (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Jim Bourg, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Daniel Lovering and Ben Berkowitz; Writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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