Three Friends Of Boston Bombing Suspect Arrested

Dina Temple-Raston talks to Audie Cornish about the three people who face charges in connection with the Boston marathon bombing.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

And there's a new development in the Boston Marathon bombing case to report today. Three college friends of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been arrested. They do not appear to have played any role in the bombing itself. Instead, they're accused of trying to help their friend after the attack.

Two of them have been charged with obstruction of justice. One of them is accused of lying to federal agents, and all three men waived their right to bail. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is here with the latest. And, Dina, what more can you tell us about these three young men?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, all three men are 19 years old, and they were college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving bombing suspect who's in a prison hospital now. Two of the men are Kazakhs, and their names are Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov. They were arrested today in connection with the bombing investigation, but they were actually taken into custody 11 days ago on immigration charges.

They shared an apartment in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and apparently Tsarnaev spent a lot of time there. Officials suspected over a week ago that Dias and Azamat might have helped Dzhokhar after the bombing, but they needed to develop a case. So because the two Kazakh students had violated their student visas, authorities were able to hold them while they worked on building a case.

CORNISH: And tell us more about the third man who appeared in court today.

TEMPLE-RASTON: He's also a college student, and he lives in Cambridge. His name is Robel Phillipos, and he's 19 years old and an American. And he's not accused of obstruction of justice. He is accused of making false statements to federal agents.

CORNISH: Now, let's get into some specifics here. I mean, what are authorities accusing these men of?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, basically, law enforcement alleges that the two Kazakh students obstructed justice by disposing of evidence in the case, although it's not clear that Dzhokhar asked them to actually help him. One of them met with Dzhokhar two days after the bombing, and he had apparently given himself a short haircut.

And then later in the week, officials alleged Dzhokhar's friends texted him after they saw what they thought was his photograph on TV. This is the day that the FBI released the photos of the two bombing suspects, the guys in the hats: one black, one white.

And they asked Dzhokhar if it was him in the picture, and all he texted back was LOL, laugh out loud. So after his friends saw what looked like his photo on TV, they went to his dorm room and found his laptop and a backpack that had empty fireworks inside.

CORNISH: And, Dina, as you reported, authorities have revealed since then that fireworks were used in the making of the Boston Marathon bombs.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. So his friends find this backpack with the empty fireworks. And according to the complaint, that's when they realize that their friend might well be the bomber. And that's when they decided to get rid of the backpack.

Investigators retrieved the backpack in a landfill in New Bedford a couple of days ago, and it's unclear whether the FBI now has the laptop. Today, after their hearing, the attorneys for the men said that their clients hadn't done anything wrong.

CORNISH: Now, what, if anything, do these arrests suggest about the possibility of a wider conspiracy?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, these latest developments don't really answer whether there was someone else that might have been part of this plot before it happened or whether someone helped with the fabrication of these bombs. You know, one of the men arrested today told investigators that a couple of months ago, Dzhokhar had told him that he knew how to build a bomb, but we don't know any more details of that.

Today's developments are really about what happened after the bombing and how these three friends allegedly helped Dzhokhar. We understand that law enforcement is looking at about a dozen people in connection with this case, so there may be more to come.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

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