x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Police comb Boston for marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Massive manhunt after police kill the other suspect, his older brother, in a shootout. Taimur Khan reports from Boston

Dzhokhar A Tsarnaev, poses for a photo after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Robin Young / AP Photo
Dzhokhar A Tsarnaev, poses for a photo after graduating from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Robin Young / AP Photo

BOSTON // A Boston suburb was shut down yesterday as police searched door to door for the surviving suspect in Monday's marathon bombing, after killing his older brother in a shootout.

Watertown residents locked themselves indoors as heavily armed police continued their hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.

His brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a gunfight with police after a car chase early yesterday. An officer was seriously injured in the battle.

The suspects had robbed a 7-Eleven convenience store in nearby Cambridge and shot dead a university police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus.

They then carjacked an SUV - releasing its driver about 30 minutes later - and led police on a chase, exchanging gunfire and hurling explosives from the vehicle.

The chase ended in Watertown, about 15 kilometres west of Boston.

Tamerlan was shot many times and may have been run over by his brother as he fled in the vehicle.

Police from Boston and surrounding towns converged on Watertown, as did officers from the FBI, transit authority and the National Guard, after the gun battle.

Reports of chases and sightings in nearby areas sent streams of police cars speeding through the narrow streets. Officers converged with spot-lights and guns drawn.

Andrew Kitzenberg, who lives on the street where the confrontation took place, told MSNBC the two were armed with handguns, grenades and "what looked to be a pressure cooker bomb", like that thought to have been used in the marathon attacks.

As an explosion went off, one of the gunmen ran toward officers then fell, Mr Kitzenberg said. The second got in the SUV and "floored it", speeding towards the officers.

The elder brother was wearing an explosive vest, authorities said.

They said the brothers were ethnic Chechens from the Russian province of Dagestan, which has been plagued by insurgency. Dzhokhar sought asylum in the US with his family about a decade ago, an uncle said.

CNN reported he was naturalised in 2012. Tamerlan came to the US more recently and was not a citizen.

Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre said a suspect was declared dead shortly after arriving with gunshot wounds and wounds consistent with an explosion.

Boston was virtually paralysed yesterday, with all public transport, air and rail travel suspended and residents told to stay in their homes.

"There is a massive manhunt under way," Massachusetts governor Duval Patrick said.

Most, if not all, Boston-area universities were closed, as were public schools and many businesses.

Swat teams, snipers and FBI agents in armoured vehicles surrounded buildings across a vast swathe of the Boston area as police helicopters flew and hovered overhead.

Joe Battista was moved from his flat in Cambridge by the FBI because it was next to the last known address of the Tsarnaev family, where officials said a controlled explosion would be conducted sometime during the day. "It was chaotic. No one could believe that these people lived a couple doors down."

Ben Oliver, who lives in Watertown, said he and his wife heard explosions and a barrage of gunfire about 1am.

"I ran outside and I could smell something in the air and could hear bursts of gunfire," he said. "I thought people might be setting off fireworks because they caught the guys.

"I knew about all the stuff going on in Boston, but you don't necessarily expect it to end up on the street you live on, with a police chase and explosions."

The president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, issued a statement yesterday about the brothers.

"Any attempt to draw a connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, is futile," Mr Kadyrov was quoted as saying. "They were raised in the United States, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there."

The suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, who recently moved back to Dagestan's capital city Makhachkala, told the Associated Press that his son Dzhokhar was "a true angel".

"Dzhokhar is a second-year medical student in the US," Anzar said. "He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here.

Dzhokhar was studying at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, college officials said.

The city of Cambridge announced two years ago, according to a city website, that it had awarded a US$2,500 scholarship (Dh9,181) to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was in his final year at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a highly regarded public school.

Augustus Ostow, now a university student in New York, attended the Cambridge school with Mr Tsarnaev, and said that he and his high school friends were "in complete disbelief".

Mr Ostow was in a physics class with Mr Tsarnaev.

"He seemed like a really nice guy. He was a pretty social, pretty popular," Mr Ostow said. "He definitely had a big group of friends."

He added that one of his high school friends had run into Mr Tsarnaev in Cambridge in January, and that the meeting had been normal.

When the photo of the suspects was released on Thursday, Mr Ostow said friends had joked on Facebook that one of the suspects looked like their friend Dzhokhar.

"This morning my first reaction was, 'oh my God it was actually him'," Mr Ostow said. "With our families in Boston having to stay indoors, it's such a bizarre thing. I never expected that I would know the bomber."

tkhan@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Bloomberg and Associated Press