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Authorities Identify Boston Marathon Suspects


To understand the scope of the major story we're following this morning, you have to imagine something like a camera zooming in and out of focus. We zoom in on a residence in Watertown, Massachusetts, and then pull back again to a metropolitan area that is largely shut down today. We pull back even further and talk about international terrorism and connections to the country, or rather to Russia and to the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Let's zoom back in now again to the two suspects who have been named by federal authorities, both described as young men who originated in Chechnya, although witnesses have told us now that they have been in the United States for a number of years, and some court records indicate the same: one of them 19 years old, one of them 26, one of them dead, one of them still at large.

NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston has been assembling what information we know about each of them. And let's start, Dina, with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the one who was shot by authorities last night, who was 26 years old. Who was he?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, we know that he was a Golden Glove boxer. We know that he was a student at a local community college called Bunker Hill in Boston.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

TEMPLE-RASTON: We know that he was studying engineering. We know that he was married to a woman who - we think she was Brazilian, and she'd converted to the Muslim religion. Those are sort of the wide details that we know about him.

INSKEEP: OK. And there's something of a criminal record on this man?

TEMPLE-RASTON: He was arrested in 2009 for assault and battery of his girlfriend.

INSKEEP: OK. And among other things, that tells us that he was in the United States at least that long. That was around four years ago, give or take a little bit.

TEMPLE-RASTON: We actually think that they may well have been here longer than that. We know that his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19 years old, has been in the United States at least since middle school. So that would put it at five or six years.

INSKEEP: And let's summarize what we know there from a variety of sources, one of them being a friend of his in school, Zolan Young, who we heard on this program earlier this morning. What is known, according to people who knew him, and according to federal law enforcement officials you've been speaking with?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, what we know about him is that he was a great athlete. He was a wrestler. He won Athlete of the Month in 2011. Apparently, he was popular in high school. We understand that he was in college but we're not quite sure yet where it was he was in college. A teacher that one of the correspondents from WBUR spoke to said that he was - and this is how he described him - a complete sweetheart. So this is not the sort of thing that you would expect as a description of someone who might be involved with something like the bombing.

INSKEEP: Can I just...


INSKEEP: ...mention, it was breathtaking earlier on this program to hear, in quick succession, a very glowing description of this young man, this brilliant, light-of-a-party young man, and seconds later to hear a very flat-out description of what the two young men are accused of doing during this continual series of violent events involving police last night.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And we're also hearing some differing things about their family. We understand that the parents are here. We've heard that maybe the father is somewhere else. But we understand that the parents are here. We know that they're observant Muslims. And we know that the women who were in sort of the area with them or in the apartment with them were wearing hijabs. And so they were quite observant.

INSKEEP: And then can we just say, also, when we say we know they were observant Muslims, we know that someone in that family or the parents were observant Muslims. Do we not know that, or do we know anything particularly about the young men?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, we know that Tamerlan had told journalists that he was a very devout Muslim, that he didn't drink and he didn't smoke - didn't smoke.

INSKEEP: Oh, that's right, because as a boxer, he'd been profiled in this Associated Press story long before the Boston Marathon...

TEMPLE-RASTON: Right. In fact it was not an Associated Press story. I was wrong about that.


TEMPLE-RASTON: It was a photo essay that had appeared, and we've seen it on the Web.

INSKEEP: And some people will be asking: Why ask about his religion? Because we have to ask about every little data point here. But let's emphasize, we do not know the motives of these two suspects. Authorities have not asserted a motive of these two suspects. It's a period of gathering every bit of information we can. We don't know if their faith had anything to do with it. We don't know what their inner faith was. We don't know if their Chechen background had anything to do with it. We are gathering data points and trying not to connect them until we have the connections.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Which, I should say, is exactly what the FBI and local law enforcement are trying to do. They piece together a mosaic, and when they put all these pieces together, this is how they come to some conclusion about what motivated these men.


And now there is a hunt for one of these young men, ongoing right now in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts. It has been an extraordinary morning in Boston and in the surrounding communities. Our colleague Jeff Brady had spoken to a woman who described a scene where there were SWAT team members in her backyard, giving her signals, giving her thumbs up, saying that the coast might be clear - just a lot of panic and uncertainty. And we want to go to our colleague, NPR's Tovia Smith, who is in Boston and reports from Boston.

And Tovia, just step back a little bit and tell me what this morning has been like there.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: It has been long and it has been dramatic and it has been scary, and just stunning and striking. When you think about it, the scene you're describing, the SWAT teams and these military vehicles - it's really a military operation - kind of swarming through suburbia. I mean, there's a Friendly's down the street here.


SMITH: You know, there's a Target around the corner. It's just - it's almost absurd to watch. And we are right now once again in one of these moments that happen every so often, where there's a burst of activity. We've been seeing this go up and down and up and down. But guns are drawn, and reporters are being pushed back. It may be about the car. Earlier today, police and the FBI were asking for help in locating this car, and they put out a description and license plate. Now they say, the FBI says, that car has been found unoccupied. They are processing it for evidence, and so that might be what this activity is about. But also, what they've been saying is they really don't want the media saying a whole lot, that if we're talking about what they're looking at and from where they're looking, and whether they're searching or targeting or surrounding...


SMITH: ...it compromises their safety, obviously.

GREENE: And they want the streets to be clear, which is one reason that they are telling people to stay in their homes - not just for their safety, but to keep the streets of these communities clear so that they can operate.

SMITH: That's right. And what's so interesting too is when they started this morning it was, of course, just one town. Then it was five cities and towns, as well as this section of Boston, Allston-Brighton. That's the part that abuts the western suburbs. And then they said that they were going to shrink it back as they kind of methodically conducted their search and squeezed in on the suspect. But it's been the opposite. They're just expanding the area under this lockdown. It's all the city of Boston. Brookline is added in. I'm looking at my - I'm now inside the zone. I'm looking out my window, and there's just nothing moving.


SMITH: And people are being told to stay inside, away from the doors, away from the windows.

GREENE: Amazing.

INSKEEP: Tovia, thanks very much. That's NPR's Tovia Smith. She is in the Boston area. We'll continue covering this story. Let's remember, it is a day for collecting dots. It may take us a long time to connect them. But we'll continue bringing you more information as we learn it about the chase for the suspect and other parts of this investigation.

It's MORNING EDITION. I'm Steve Inskeep.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.