Times Square Was Boston Bombing Suspects' Next Target, NYC Mayor Says

Monday, Jul 8, 2013  |  Updated 3:55 PM EDT
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Connecticut Couple Recalls Scary Moments During Boston Bombing

New York City officials said they were told the Boston Marathon bombing suspects made a "spontaneous" decision to attack Times Square.

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The Boston Marathon bombing suspects discussed coming to New York City to detonate the rest of their explosives in Times Square, but the plan never materialized because they ran out of gas and then got into a gunfight with police, officials announced Thursday.

The brothers made the attack decision "spontaneously" and up to that point had six explosive devices, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a Thursday news conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. One device was a pressure cooker bomb and the other five pipe bombs, Kelly said.

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Initially, Kelly had said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is hospitalized and charged in the attack, indicated to investigators that he and older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev had planned a trip to Manhattan last week to "party" after the marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260, NBC 4 New York reported.

But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev subsequently told investigators that he and his brother discussed the idea of exploding the rest of their bombs in Times Square, Bloomberg said, which they had visited twice in the past 12 months, according to Kelly.

Law enforcement officials cautioned that the idea of coming to New York was "aspirational" and was not developed, NBC 4 New York reported.

The plan went awry when the brothers ran low on gas after hijacking a Mercedes and the driver used the opportunity to escape and call police, officials said.

“We don’t know if we would have been able to stop the terrorists if they had arrived here from Boston,” Bloomberg said. “We’re just thankful that we didn’t have to find out the answer.”

For more U.S. news coverage, vistit NBCNews.com

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The suspected terrorist brothers are also suspected of shooting a police officer dead and then getting into a gunfight while hurling explosives with police after a chase in a Boston suburb a week ago. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fled on foot, only to be captured hours later on Friday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later read his Miranda rights by a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney's office in his hospital room, and he immediately stopped talking, according to a U.S. law enforcement source and four officials of both political parties briefed on the interrogation. They insisted on anonymity because the briefing was private.

Before being advised of his rights, the 19-year-old suspect also told authorities that he and his brother Tamerlan read instructions on how to build bombs from the al-Qaida online English-language magazine Inspire, federal law enforcement officials told NBC News. He added that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, only recently had recruited him to be part of the attack that detonated pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon finish line, two U.S. officials said.

The CIA, however, had named Tamerlan to a terrorist database 18 months ago, said officials close to the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with reporters.

The new disclosure that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was included within a huge, classified database of known and suspected terrorists before the attacks was expected to drive congressional inquiries in coming weeks about whether the Obama administration adequately investigated tips from Russia that Tsarnaev had posed a security threat.

Shortly after the bombings, U.S. officials said the intelligence community had no information about threats to the marathon before the April 15 explosions.

After Tsarnaev died Friday in the police shootout, Dzhokhar was discovered hiding in a boat in a suburban back yard.

Boston police Commissioner Ed Davis had said earlier that shots were fired from inside the boat, but two U.S. officials told the AP that the suspect was unarmed when captured by police, raising questions about how he was injured. The homeowner who called police initially said he saw a good amount of blood in the boat.

Washington is piecing together what happened and whether there were any unconnected dots buried in U.S. government files that, if connected, could have prevented the bombings.

Lawmakers who were briefed by the FBI said they have more questions than answers about the investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said lawmakers intend to pursue whether there was a breakdown in information-sharing, though Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said he "hasn't seen any red flags thus far."

U.S. officials were expected to brief the Senate on the investigation Thursday.

Meanwhile, the suspects' father said Thursday that he is leaving Russia for the United States in the next day or two, but their mother said she was still thinking it over.

Anzor Tsarnaev has expressed a desire to go to the U.S. to find out what happened with his sons, defend his hospitalized 19-year-old son Dzhokhar and if possible bring his older son's body back to Russia for burial.

Their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who was charged with shoplifting in the U.S. last summer, said she has been assured by lawyers that she would not be arrested, but was still deciding whether to go.

It is unclear whether the issue of their younger son's constitutional rights will matter since the FBI say he confessed to a witness. U.S. officials also said Wednesday that physical evidence, including a 9 mm handgun and pieces of a remote-control device commonly used in toys, was recovered from the bombing scene.

 

But the debate over whether suspected terrorists should be read their Miranda rights has become a major sticking point in the debate over how best to fight terrorism. Many Republicans, in particular, believe Miranda warnings are designed to build court cases, and only hinder intelligence gathering.

Christina DiIorio Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, said in an email late Wednesday, "This remains an ongoing investigation and we don't have any further comment."

Investigators have said the brothers appeared to have been radicalized through jihadist materials on the Internet and have found no evidence tying them to a terrorist group.

U.S. investigators traveled to the predominantly Muslim province of Dagestan in Russia and were in contact with the brothers' parents, hoping to gain more information.

They are looking into whether Tamerlan, who spent six months in Russia's turbulent Caucasus region in 2012, was influenced by the religious extremists who have waged an insurgency against Russian forces in the area for years. The brothers have roots in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya but had lived in the U.S. for about a decade.

Dzhokhar told the FBI that they were angry about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there, officials said.

Dzhokhar's public defender had no comment on the matter Wednesday. His father has called him a "true angel," and an aunt has insisted he's not guilty.

Investigators have found pieces of remote-control equipment among the debris and were analyzing them, officials said. One official described the detonator as "close-controlled," meaning it had to be triggered within several blocks of the bombs.

That evidence could be key to the court case. And an FBI affidavit said one of the brothers told a carjacking victim during their getaway attempt, "Did you hear about the Boston explosion? I did that."

Officials also recovered a 9 mm handgun believed to have been used by Tamerlan from the site of an April 18 gunbattle that injured a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer, two U.S. officials said.

In other developments:

— Vice President Joe Biden condemned the bombing suspects as "two twisted, perverted, cowardly, knockoff jihadis" while speaking at a memorial service Wednesday for Sean Collier, a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was ambushed in his cruiser three days after the bombing. More than 4,000 mourners paid tribute to the officer.

— The Office of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts confirmed a Boston Herald report Wednesday that Tamerlan, his wife and toddler daughter had received welfare benefits up until last year, when he became ineligible based on family income. The state also says Tamerlan and his brother received welfare benefits as children through their parents while the family lived in Massachusetts.

— The area around the marathon finish line was reopened to the public.

 

 


 

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