Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hunt over as second Boston bomber arrested

The second suspect wanted in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings is in custody after being found hiding in a boat in a suburban homeowner's backyard.

Police said they exchanged gunfire with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, after cornering him in Watertown, near Boston. He had escaped on foot early on Friday, apparently wounded, after a police shootout that claimed the life of his elder brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

"Hunt is over"

Boston police announced the arrest on Twitter with the message, "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody."

Word of the arrest spread quickly in suburban Watertown, where residents took to the streets to cheer the news that suspect had been arrested. "Thank you. Thank you. It was our pleasure," members of the Boston SWAT team said over a loudspeaker.

Three people died and more than 170 were hurt in Monday's bombings. During the operation to capture the suspects a police officer also died and another was said to be seriously injured. At least 58 people remained hospitalized on Friday, including three in critical condition, according to CNN.

Seeking answers

At a Friday night press conference, US President Barack Obama promised to seek answers on what had motivated the bombers and whether they had help.

The brothers came from the Russian Caucasus region and moved to Kazakhstan at a young age before coming to the United States several years ago. "My youngest was raised from 8 years in America. My oldest was really properly raised in our house. Nobody talked about terrorism," their mother said, who expressed her disbelief in her sons' involvement.

Family denials

"It's impossible for them to do such things. I am really telling you that this is a setup," Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the state-run Russia Today television channel.

The suspects' parents recently returned to Dagestan in the Caucasus region after living in the United States for about 10 years because they were "nostalgic," the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told Russian state-run Zvezda TV. He also accused someone of framing his sons. "I don't know who exactly did it. But someone did."

A federal official told CNN that Dzhokar Tsarnaev came to the US as a tourist with his family in the early 2000s and later asked for asylum. He became a naturalized US citizen in 2012. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not a naturalized citizen, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He came "a few years later" and was lawfully in the United States as a green-card holder.

Despite denials and refusals to admit their sons' involvement in the bombings, authorities beliefs the two suspects are the same as identified in CCTV footage placing devices near to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Dramatic hunt

The final hours of the operation were nothing less than dramatic. Authorities homed in on the suspects after they killed an MIT campus police officer before carjacking a black Mercedes SUV, taking its owner hostage and driving off towards Watertown with police in pursuit.

On their way, the hostage was dumped at a petrol station after around 30 minutes, before a shoot-out ensued in the residential area of Watertown. During the shoot-out, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, is said to have run at police and was shot at and arrested. He later died in hospital despite attempts to resuscitate him.

According to NBC, police ran over him because he was wearing an IED [improvised explosive device]. However this has not been confirmed by police or other officials.

During the operation Tamerlan's younger brother Dzhokhar escaped on foot and authorities ordered much of the area of Boston be placed in lock-down, shutting down public transport and telling residents to remain indoors.

Later the same day a member of the public alerted police to blood seen on the side of a boat parked in a backyard of a Watertown residence. SWAT officers quickly moved in using a robot to determine if anyone was hiding inside. After an exchange of gunfire the suspect was taken into custody, though he was described to be in a serious condition.

Public help and hindrance

The quick apprehension of the bombing suspects was in part due to the help of the public who provided authorities with footage, photographs and tip-offs. However, well-meaning members of the online community also hampered the investigation and created problems for many innocent individuals after they were wrongly accused of being connected to the attacks.

Thousands of individuals had been tirelessly picking through the evidence - every piece of video footage, every photo, every eyewitness account they could get their hands on. They discussed their theories and "leads" within massive communities such as Reddit, 4Chan, Facebook and Twitter.

False accusations

But on Friday, those efforts ended with an apology. After hours of chatter and speculation, the standout suspect identified - and named - was the wrong man.

"I'd like to extend the deepest apologies to the family of Sunil Tripathi for any part we may have had in relaying what has turned out to be faulty information," wrote Reddit user Rather_Confused. "We cannot begin to know what you're going through and for that we are truly sorry.

Others had also been wrongly accused and led to much soul searching on sites like Reddit. When the real suspects, as confirmed by the FBI, were identified, the moderators of the Find Boston Bombers group told members that any posts about other people would be deleted immediately.

It meant much of the focus in the subreddit had shifted to the morality of what had occurred. "This subreddit has been a disaster that has done more harm than good," wrote Reddit user DarrenGrey. "It ended up an epicentre of unstoppable finger-pointing and wild conjecture...And worst of all the mainstream media leapt on the information here like hungry hyenas."

"Unreliable crowd-sourced material plus the media's ravenous desire for fresh information has proved a disgusting mix. Let's never ever do this again." [BBC]

Further reports: BBC / Sky News / CNN

tvnewswatch, Yunnan, China

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