- U.S. lawmakers grill FBI on Boston bombing investigation
- U.S. drops charges against Mississippi man in ricin letters case
- Bomber targets Pakistan's Hazara minority in run-up to elections
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 08:05 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers grilled top security officials on Tuesday about the handling of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation and why one of the suspects flagged as a possible Islamist radical was not tracked more closely.
FBI officials briefed members of Congress behind closed doors in Washington about the investigation into the April 15 blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others.
Authorities say the ethnic Chechen brothers, who immigrated to the United States a decade ago from the predominantly Muslim region of Dagestan in Russia's Caucasus, detonated two bombs made from pressure cookers near the finish line of the iconic foot race.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, lies wounded in a Boston hospital charged with using weapons of mass destruction.
Investigators have focused on a trip to Dagestan last year by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and whether he became involved with or was influenced by Chechen separatists or Islamist extremists there.
Russian authorities flagged him as a possible Islamist extremist in 2011. The FBI interviewed him in Massachusetts but found no serious reason for alarm. Some lawmakers have questioned if more could have been done at the time.
Senators said after a briefing by FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and other officials that there may have been a breakdown in communication that kept authorities from tracking his apparent radicalization.
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said the briefing raised questions about the flow of information among law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
"I think there has been some stonewalls, and some stovepipes reconstructed, that were probably unintentional, but we've got to review that issue again, and make sure there is the free flow of information," he said.
"I can't say the FBI dropped the ball. I don't see anybody yet that dropped the ball," he said. "That may develop."
The senators said there was tough questioning during the briefing.
"We had a full discussion back and forth over the process that's followed, and we need to keep at that, and we need to see if there are any loopholes in it, and that we fix those loopholes," said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who chairs the committee.
Lawmakers said they were unable to confirm an NBC report that the Tsarnaev brothers had been motivated by the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or speculation that they had used fireworks to provide the explosives used in their bombs.
SUSPECT'S WIFE COOPERATING
The wife of the dead bombing suspect is assisting authorities and in absolute shock that her husband and brother-in-law were accused of the deadly blasts, her lawyer said.
"She cries a lot," attorney Amato DeLuca said of Katherine Russell, 24, an American-born convert to Islam who married Tamerlan Tsarnaev in June 2010. "She can't go anywhere. She can't work."
People interviewed by Reuters described Tamerlan Tsarnaev as proud but angry, never quite achieving his own idea of the American dream, and instead finding solace in a radical form of Islam adopted by fighters in his homeland.
The sisters of the bombing suspects said they too did not know what had happened to their brothers.
Ailina Tsarnaev, who lives in West New York, New Jersey, and her sister Bella issued a statement through their attorneys expressing their sadness over "such a callous act."
"As a family we are absolutely devastated by the sense of loss and sorrow this has caused," they said. "We don't have any answers but we look forward to a thorough investigation and hope to learn more."
But relatives interviewed in Russia said they did not believe the brothers carried out the bombings. "No one is accusing them of anything here," Said Tsarnaev, a local photojournalist, told Reuters.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's condition improved to "fair" from "serious" on Tuesday as he recovered from gunshot wounds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where in an impromptu hearing on Monday he was charged with two crimes that could result in the death penalty if he were convicted.
Since recovering enough to communicate by nodding his head and writing, the younger Tsarnaev has told authorities he and his brother acted alone, learned to build the bombs over the Internet and were motivated by a desire to defend Islam because of "the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," NBC News reported.
NBC cited an unnamed U.S. counterterrorism source who has received multiple briefings on the investigation. Reuters could not confirm the information.
Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night following a massive, daylong manhunt that shut down greater Boston.
Police say the Tsarnaev brothers also killed a university police officer on Thursday night and wounded a transit police officer on Friday morning.
The family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person to die in the attacks, privately buried their son on Tuesday.
"This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal," parents Denise and Bill Richard said in a statement. "We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace."
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Boston, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Providence, Rhode Island, Richard Cowan in Washington and David Jones in New Jersey; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eric Beech and Lisa Shumaker)
Suspect's widow drawn into Boston bomb investigation
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 07:20 PM PDT
TUPELO, Mississippi (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors dropped charges on Tuesday against a Mississippi man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama, a U.S. senator and a state judge, according to court documents.
The surprise decision came hours after Paul Kevin Curtis was released from a Mississippi jail on bond.
Prosecutors said the "ongoing investigation has revealed new information," but provided no additional details, according to the court order dismissing the charges.
Curtis told reporters he respected Obama. "I would never do anything to pose a threat to him or any other U.S. official," he said. "I love this country."
He said he had no idea what ricin was. "I thought they said 'rice,' I told them I don't eat rice," he said.
Curtis, who is 45 and known in Mississippi as an Elvis impersonator, had been released from jail on bond earlier on Tuesday after a judge indefinitely postponed a court hearing on his detention. The case was later dismissed "without prejudice," meaning the charges could be potentially reinstated if warranted.
Later on Tuesday federal law enforcement officials searched the house of a second Mississippi man, Everett Dutschke, Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson told Reuters.
It was not clear if the search was related to the ricin case.
A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oxford, Mississippi, did not return calls for comment.
Dutschke is "cooperating fully" with the FBI, his attorney Lori Nail Basham told the Northeastern Mississippi Daily Journal. Dutschke has not been charged in the ricin case, she said.
Basham said Dutschke and Curtis were acquaintances and believed the two men had known each other for several years.
Deborah Madden, an FBI spokeswoman in Jackson, Mississippi, declined to comment. Phone calls to a number listed for Dutschke and his attorney went unanswered.
In 2007, Dutschke ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate against Stephen Holland, an incumbent Democratic state representative from the Tupelo area. Holland's mother, Sadie, is the judge to whom one of the ricin-tainted letters was mailed this month.
During the state campaign Dutschke produced a video titled "The Aliens are Coming," attacking his opponent for being soft on immigration, which stated that Holland was a "friend" of the September 11 hijackers.
LAWYER SAYS CURTIS WAS FRAMED
Christi McCoy, Curtis's attorney, told CNN she believed her client had been framed.
"I do believe that someone who was familiar and is familiar with Kevin just simply took his personal information and did this to him," McCoy told CNN. "It is absolutely horrific that someone would do this."
Curtis was arrested on April 17 at his home in Corinth, Mississippi. He was charged with mailing letters to Obama, Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Sadie Holland containing a substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a highly lethal poison made from castor beans.
The letters were intercepted by authorities before they reached their destinations. The poison scare put Washington on edge during the same week the Boston Marathon bombing occurred.
Over the weekend, investigators searched Curtis's home, his vehicle and his ex-wife's home, but failed to find any incriminating evidence, McCoy told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
In a statement last week, Curtis's family said they had not been shown any evidence of the charges against him. They said he suffers from a long history of mental illness.
Typewritten on yellow paper, the three letters contained the same eight-line message, according to an affidavit from the FBI and the Secret Service filed in court.
"Maybe I have your attention now / Even if that means someone must die," the letters read in part, according to the affidavit. The letters ended: "I am KC and I approve this message."
The initials "KC" led law enforcement officials to ask Wicker's staff if they were aware of any constituents with those initials, and the focus of the investigation then turned to Curtis, the affidavit said.
Also on Tuesday, a Pentagon spy agency said tests found no suspicious letters after an alert during a screening of incoming mail at a military base in Washington, D.C.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Defence Intelligence Agency had said security personnel detected a potentially harmful substance during routine screening of incoming mail at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, and initial tests indicated the presence of "possible biological toxins."
(Additional reporting by David Adams, Tom Brown, Phil Stewart, David Lawder, Emily LeCoz; Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Jane Sutton, Gerald E. McCormick, Andre Grenon, Dan Grebler and Mohammad Zargham)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 05:37 PM PDT
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A prominent leader of Pakistan's ethnic Hazara minority narrowly escaped a suicide attack that killed six people on Tuesday, underscoring the growing threat militants pose to secular politicians in the run-up to next month's general elections.
The blast in Quetta was the worst attack since a series of bombings in the city at the start of the year killed almost 200 people, briefly drawing global attention to a growing campaign of persecution of the Hazaras by sectarian militants.
The 500,000-strong community in Quetta has been subjected to an escalating campaign shootings and bombings by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a militant group dedicated to attacking Pakistan's Shi'ite Muslim minority, which includes the Hazaras.
Khaliq Hazara, the chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party, the main Hazara political organisation, said the blast occurred shortly after he had finished addressing a small outdoor election meeting in a Hazara enclave in the east of the city.
"I was doing my campaigning in my own community," Hazara told Reuters. "The government should give us security."
Hazara, who is running for a National Assembly seat at the May 11 elections, said he suspected the bomber intended to kill him and his advisers. "We were the target," he said.
LEJ's spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast via telephone from an undisclosed location, though he did not specify whether the HDP leader was the target.
The HDP is a secular party that has emerged to press Pakistan's government to take greater action to protect Hazaras from attacks that have killed hundreds of people in Quetta in recent years. The party's previous chairman was shot dead in the city in 2009.
The proximity of the blast to the HDP gathering will fuel fears that Islamist militants are determined to disrupt campaigning by secular parties ahead of the polls, Pakistan's first transition between elected civilian governments.
The suicide car bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle after being stopped at a nearby checkpoint manned by the paramilitary Frontier Corps, according to a security official. He said a member of the force was among the dead.
The blast occurred shortly after three smaller, hidden bombs exploded at various locations in the city, wounding nine people, police said.
LEJ's activists subscribe to the hard-line Takfiri Deobandi school of Islam, which is followed by a small minority of Pakistanis. The most violent members see it is a sacred duty to kill Shi'ites, who are known in Pakistan as Shias.
Hazaras are both Shi'ites and members an ethnic minority who originally migrated from Afghanistan, leaving them vulnerable to a double layer of discrimination.
LeJ's campaign of violence against the Hazaras has placed the community under siege in Quetta, leaving many people afraid to venture out of Hazara enclaves and disrupting business and education. Thousands of Hazaras have fled Quetta to seek asylum in Europe and Australia rather than face LeJ's death squads.
In a separate attack on Tuesday, a bomb exploded in the commercial capital Karachi near a gathering of activists of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the dominant political party in the city. Police said two people were killed.
The MQM, a secular party, is locked in a battle with various rival contenders for influence in Karachi, including Pakistan's Taliban movement, which has sought to gain a foothold in various districts on the outskirts of the city in recent years.
The worst attack on an election event occurred last week when at least nine people were killed in bomb attack on a rally held by the Awami National Party in the north-western city of Peshawar.
The ANP, a secular party, is locked in a bitter struggle with Pakistan's Taliban movement, which has staged numerous attacks on its members over the years and has vowed to step up its campaign in the run-up to the polls.
(Writing by Matthew Green; Editing by Jon Hemming)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
|You are subscribed to email updates from The Star Online: World Updates |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|