WASHINGTON, May 1 (RIA Novosti) – US authorities have arrested three college friends of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, two Kazakh men and a US citizen, on suspicion of lying to investigators and obstructing justice in connection with the deadly bombing, federal prosecutors in Boston said Wednesday.
Kazakh citizens Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, and Dias Kadyrbayev, also 19, have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by plotting to dispose of a laptop and a backpack containing fireworks that belonged to suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the US District Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement.
The third man, 19-year-old Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was charged with lying to law enforcement officials during the investigation into the April 15 bombing, in which explosive devices were detonated near the finish line of the race, killing three people and injuring more than 250, federal prosecutors said.
There was no indication Wednesday that the three men were suspected of helping to plan or carry out the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Several US media outlets reported that the three suspects were roommates of Tsarnaev, 19, who evaded a chaotic police manhunt for hours before he was apprehended in the Boston suburb of Watertown on April 19. He has since been charged with using “a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, is also suspected of carrying out the attack but was killed in the police manhunt several hours before his brother’s arrest.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, who attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was also enrolled, appeared before a federal immigration judge in Boston on Wednesday morning on suspicion of violating their student visas, The Boston Globe reported.
They had been detained for civil immigration violations after investigators questioned them about their possible links to the Tsarnaevs, the newspaper said.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, who entered the United States on student visas, face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said.
The Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement Wednesday that two Kazakh students had been detained in the United States for visa violations, though it did not identify the students by name.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who come from a family of ethnic Chechens, lived in Dagestan, a violence-ridden republic in Russia’s North Caucasus region, and the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan before moving to the United States nearly a decade ago.
The three suspects arrested Wednesday were set to appear in a federal court in Boston on Wednesday afternoon, federal prosecutors said.
Updated with statements from US federal prosecutors and the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry, as well as with detail and background throughout.