Suspect's laptop sought in Boston bomb probe

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BOSTON -- The search for evidence in the Boston Marathon bombings sent white-suited investigators combing through the garbage at a landfill in New Bedford, Mass., on Thursday as they hunted for a laptop computer belonging to one of the suspects, a law enforcement official said.

Investigators have been searching for several days for the laptop that they believe belonged to one of the two brothers suspected of setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon on April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others, several law enforcement officials said.

They believe that the computer may have been thrown out, and they searched the Crapo Hill Landfill in New Bedford, near the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where one brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was charged in the bombings this week, was a student.

New details continued to emerge about the bombing plot and last week's manhunt for the suspects. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a news conference at City Hall to announce that Mr. Tsarnaev had told investigators from his hospital bed that he and his older brother, Tamerlan, had decided to drive to New York City on the night of April 18 to use their remaining explosive devices in Times Square. Law enforcement officials confirmed the account but said the brothers' intention appeared to have been more of a spontaneous idea than a real, thought-out plan.

Officials continued to revise and, in some cases, correct some of their initial accounts of the manhunt during the fast-moving events of last week. An armed carjacking that state and federal officials at first said last week had occurred in Cambridge, Mass., actually appears to have taken place across the Charles River in Allston, a Boston neighborhood, several law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Cambridge police spokesman Dan Riviello said the authorities were still trying to sort out whether the suspects, believed to be the brothers, had a car, or what car they used, in fleeing the location of a shooting earlier that night of an MIT police officer in Cambridge, a few miles from Allston.

Angel Sifontes, 27, who works at a Hess gas station on Brighton Avenue in Allston, said detectives investigating the carjacking had visited the station to see whether its cameras had caught any images of the crime. He said the carjacking was apparently out of range of the cameras.

The Cambridge police initially said the carjacking had been carried out by two men "in the area of Third Street in Cambridge." A sworn affidavit from an FBI agent accompanying the criminal complaint against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was unsealed Monday said "an individual carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint in Cambridge, Massachusetts."

Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts, said Thursday that officials had written "Cambridge" in the affidavit because that is what investigators believed at the time. She said that "has since changed."

A law enforcement official said that, although ballistics tests were still being done, officials believed that most of the bullets that were fired in a shootout between the police and the brothers in Watertown, Mass., early on April 19 were fired by police officers. One law enforcement official said that "most of the expended rounds were from law enforcement, no doubt about it."

Only one gun has been recovered from the brothers, officials said. The law enforcement official, noting that the brothers had thrown explosive devices during the battle, including a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones used at the marathon, said it was "like a combat situation." Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was mortally wounded after the battle.

"Anybody in the area was trying to shoot them, which is within protocol," the official said. "Every time that an explosive device went off, somebody took a shot."

Several law enforcement officials said that because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not have a gun when he was captured after the shootout, hiding in a boat in a nearby backyard, the gunshot wound in his neck could not have been self-inflicted, as some law enforcement officials had said they believed earlier. Contrary to initial reports that the police had "exchanged" gunfire with the suspect, the official said it appeared that police officers surrounding the boat had apparently fired into it after they saw something push through the boat's tarp, and feared it might be an explosive device or a gun.

"One officer then fired," the law enforcement official said. "The other officers there, hearing a shot going off, thought it was coming from the suspect and started shooting until the cease-fire was ordered."

In Makhachkala, Russia, the parents of the Tsarnaev brothers said at a news conference that their sons were innocent. Although officials said they have video evidence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev putting down a knapsack where one bomb exploded, and law enforcement officials have said he admitted to a role in the bombings, the suspects' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, said she would not accept that her sons were guilty. "No I don't -- and I won't," she said. "Never!"

In another development, The Washington Post reported that nine months before the Boston bombings, a U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning that a suspected militant had returned from a lengthy trip to Russia.

The warning, according to unnamed U.S. officials, was delivered to a single U.S. Customs and Border Protection official assigned to Boston's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a cell of specialists from federal and local law enforcement agencies. The task force was part of a network of multi-agency organizations set up across the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to make sure that clues and tips were shared.

But officials said there is no indication that the unidentified customs officer provided the information to any other members of the task force, including FBI agents who had previously interviewed the militant.

The man whose return from Russia went largely unnoticed was Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The apparent failure to alert the FBI has emerged as a significant, if slender, missed opportunity to scrutinize Tsarnaev's activities ahead of the Boston attack.

The disclosure was one of several to cause lawmakers to express concern about persistent gaps in U.S. counterterrorism procedures.


The Washington Post contributed.


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