Still 'persons of interest' in Boston probe: lawmakers

28th April 2013, Comments 0 comments

Investigators are pursuing other "persons of interest" who may be linked to the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon, US lawmakers said Sunday.

"There are still persons of interest in the United States that the FBI would like to have conversations with," Representative Mike Rogers, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC's "This Week." He declined to provide a number.

Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the committee, concurred, telling ABC: "We're looking at phone calls before and after the bombing."

Authorities have identified two brothers -- Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev -- as the suspects in the April 15 twin blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

While Tamerlan died during a shootout with police days after the attacks, his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar was captured alive and is being held at a federal prison medical center outside Boston.

Representative Michael McCaul, head of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he believed the suspects got training, considering the "level of sophistication" of the type of device -- a pressure-cooker bomb -- used for the attack.

That and "the fact that the pressure cooker is a signature device, goes back to Pakistan or Afghanistan, leads me to believe -- and the way they handled these devices and the trade craft -- leads me to believe that there was a trainer," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

"And the question is, where is that trainer or trainers? Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?"

The lawmakers' comments came as US media reported that Russian authorities secretly wiretapped the mother of the brothers, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, and recorded her discussing jihad in vague terms during a 2011 telephone conversation.

The Russians only turned over the information to their US counterparts in recent days, according to CNN.

A US official with knowledge of the investigation who confirmed the intercept to the television network declined to confirm who was on the other line.

Asked about the report late Saturday, US Attorney General Eric Holder declined to comment, saying it was an "ongoing matter."

Both the CIA and the FBI flagged Tamerlan over possible terror ties after Russian officials contacted the US agencies in 2011.

Reports said Russian authorities had also alerted their US counterparts about concerns that his mother was a religious extremist, and that she was added along with her older son to a terror watchlist.

Still, Rogers said he believed Moscow has more information that would be "incredibly helpful."

"There's a cultural problem there between where the Russians are and our folks," he said. "I believe that they have information and had more information."

Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, claimed the Russians were not disclosing everything they know -- especially in regards to the mother.

"There's got to be a basis for why they went up on her electronically or why they went up on one of her affiliates or associates," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"We don't know that. We haven't received that information from the Russians," he added. "I think they do know more than they're telling us."

Attention also turned to why US authorities failed to connect the dots and prevent the attacks -- considering what they knew at the time.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, for one, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that "we're going to have to up our game."

"It's a failure to share information and missing obvious warning signs," he said.


© 2013 AFP

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