3 Charged With Helping Boston Bombing Suspect

There have been some new developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Authorities on Wednesday arrested three college friends of one of the suspects. The FBI says they helped Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the days after the bombing — even after realizing their friend was a suspect.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

Let's hear more now about new developments in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Yesterday, authorities arrested three young men, all college friends of one of the bombing suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

MONTAGNE: The FBI says these young men helped Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the days after the bombing, even after realizing their friend was a suspect. Two of the men are being charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice. The third is being charged with lying to federal agents.

GREENE: But we should be clear, the Justice Department is not charging the three with being involved in the bombing itself.

Let's bring in NPR's counter-terrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, who's been following every twist and turn in this investigation.

And, Dina, tell us what we should make of these new arrests.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, these are all 19-year-old young college students. They were friends with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They'd been students at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with him. Two of the men are Kazakhs and their names are Dias Kadrybayev and Azamat Tazhayakov. And they were actually taken into custody 11 days ago on immigration charges. They shared an apartment in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev apparently spent a lot of his time.

Officials actually suspected over a week ago that the two of them might have helped Dzhokhar in some way after the bombing. They were arrested just days after the attacks because they had violated their student visas, partly 'cause they weren't attending class. So authorities were able to hold them while they tried to develop a case.

GREENE: OK. You say they're Kazakhs, that's referring to the nation Kazakhstan in Central Asia, where there have been some ties with the Tsarnaev family. So they were taken into custody 11 days ago on immigration charges, but the arrest for these charges were yesterday.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's what was yesterday. Essentially that is when they actually had to answer these charges related to the bombing.

GREENE: OK. So those are two of the men. Who's the third arrested?

TEMPLE-RASTON: He's also a college student. His name is Robel Philipos and he's 19. He's an American citizen and he lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And he's the one accused of lying to federal agents. In the case of all three of these young men, the question is whether or not they're still enrolled in college or not. But their college friends of Tsarnaev's.

GREENE: OK, college friends not accused of being directly involved in the bombing itself thus far. What exactly are these three men allegedly accused of doing?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, law enforcement officials say that two of them, Dias and Azamat, obstructed justice because they disposed of evidence - a backpack - that was important to the case, although it's not clear Dzhokhar asked either one of them to help him out in any way. According to the criminal complaint, one of them met with Dzhokhar two days after the bombing and he had apparently given himself a short haircut. You remember, he was the one wearing the white hat with sort of the curly hair in the video.

GREENE: Right, the longer hair. Yeah.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And then later that week, officials allege Dzhokhar's friends texted him after they saw that photograph on TV. This is the day the FBI released those photos of the two bombing suspects. Remember, there was suspect number one, who was wearing a black ball cap, which officials say was Dzhokhar's older brother Tamerlan. And then there was suspect number two, who authorities say is Dzhokhar. So after they saw what they thought was Dzhokhar's photo on TV, they then went to his dorm room and found his laptop and that backpack.

GREENE: And did they find anything else beyond that?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, in the backpack there were fireworks that had been opened and emptied of powder. And one of the Kazakh students told authorities that when he saw those empty fireworks in the backpack, he knew that his friend had been involved in the marathon attack. So he decided, along with these other friends, to get rid of the backpack.

Investigators retrieved it in a landfill in New Bedford a couple of days ago. And it's unclear whether the FBI now has Dzhokhar's laptop too, which could be very helpful in trying to piece together what happened before the bombing. But by disposing of the backpack, Dzhokhar's friends basically leave themselves open to obstruction of justice charges.

Their lawyers came out yesterday and said that the young men didn't think that they had done anything wrong.

GREENE: And really briefly, Dina, any suggestion here that this is a wider conspiracy that we're learning about?

TEMPLE-RASTON: No, these latest developments are largely about what happened after the attacks. For the most part, this is really focused on what his friends did. We understand there are a dozen people that officials are looking at in connection with this case, so there'll may be more to come

GREENE: Alright, and you'll be following it all for us. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, thanks so much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

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