Boston, Reuters—The ethnic Chechen college student accused with his deceased older brother of the Boston Marathon bombing faced federal charges as early as Monday as he lay hospitalized under armed guard, severely wounded and unable to speak.
ABC and NBC news networks reported late on Sunday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was awake and responding in writing to questions put to him by authorities after two days under sedation in Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Other US news sources, including CNN, said Tsarnaev, who was shot in the throat and the leg prior to his arrest, was still sedated in the intensive care unit with a breathing tube down his throat.
Authorities told Reuters that the sedation, and a tongue injury from the throat wound itself, had left him incapable of speech and precluded questioning by investigators.
Tsarnaev’s apprehension on Friday night ended a manhunt that virtually shut down greater Boston for some 20 hours. His older brother, fellow bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was pronounced dead after a gunfight with police a day earlier.
Investigators are seeking, among other things, to determine whether the two suspects acted alone.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said he was convinced the Tsarnaev brothers were the two principal perpetrators.
“I am confident that they were the two major actors in the violence that occurred,” he told CNN on Sunday.
Davis also said investigators have discovered at least four undetonated devices, one of them similar to the two pressure cooker bombs set off at the Boston Marathon, and that he believed the suspects were planning additional attacks.
Still, much of investigators’ attention has focused on a trip to Russia last year by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and whether Chechen separatists or Islamist extremists there may have influenced or assisted in the bombings.
The two brothers, who are of ethnic Chechen heritage, emigrated to the United States a decade ago from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s North Caucasus mountains.
They are accused of planting and setting off two homemade bombs near the crowded finish line of the Boston Marathon last Monday, killing three people and injuring more than 170 others.
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, the federal prosecutor for the Boston area, was preparing criminal charges on Sunday against the younger Tsarnaev, a naturalized US citizen, according to Davis. It was not clear when charges would be filed, but it could as early as Monday.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Moscow in January 2012 and spent six months in Dagestan, a law enforcement source said. Neighbors in Makhachkala, the region’s capital city, said he kept a low profile while spending time last summer helping his father renovate an apartment unit.
It was unclear if he could have had contact with militant Islamist groups in southern Russia’s restive Caucasus region.
But that trip, combined with Russian interest in Tamerlan communicated to US authorities and an FBI interview of him in 2011, have raised questions whether danger signals were missed.
A group leading an Islamist insurgency against Russia said on Sunday it was not at war with the United States, distancing itself from the Boston bombings. The insurgency is rooted in two separatist wars that Russian troops waged against Chechen separatists following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Photos and video footage of the Tsarnaev brothers, allegedly in the act of planting bombs at the marathon, were first circulated by the FBI on Thursday with an appeal for help in locating the then-unidentified pair.
The suspects allegedly shot dead a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge later that night, then hijacked a sport utility vehicle before opening fire and hurling explosives at pursuing law enforcement.
During this confrontation, according to police, a transit cop was badly injured and the older Tsarnaev, walking toward officers and firing until he ran out of ammunition, was tackled by police, only to be struck by the SUV as his brother sped away in the vehicle.
The younger Tsarnaev later abandoned the vehicle and vanished, leading authorities to impose a lockdown on the city of Boston and surrounding communities before he was found and arrested in the suburb of Watertown some 20 hours later.
He turned up spattered with blood and hiding inside a covered boat parked in a back yard.
He apparently had been hit by gunfire in the shootout that left his brother dead the day before, but it was not clear whether he suffered additional wounds in a final hail of bullets that preceded his capture.
Students returning to campus on Sunday at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was enrolled, recalled seeing him back in the dorm, at class and even working out in the gym a day or two after the bombings before realizing he was suspected in the crime.
The brothers spent their early years in a small community of Chechens in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim nation of 5.5 million. They moved in 2001 to Dagestan.
The men’s parents, who moved back to southern Russia some time ago, have said their sons were framed.