Two Kazakh men and a third man have been arrested by federal authorities in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings, a law enforcement official familar with the case said this morning.
The two men, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, came to America from the Central Asian nation to study at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was also enrolled. The law enforcement official did not release the name of the third person arrested.
The three people arrested were connected to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the surviving bomb suspect, at the university and allegedly helped him after the bombing, a different source told the Globe.
The Boston police Web page said that three additional “suspects” had been taken into custody. It emphasized that there was no threat to public safety.
“Additional details will be provided when they become available,” police said in a statement. No news conference was scheduled. Neither the FBI nor the US attorney’s office in Boston immediately had a comment.
Tsarnaev is facing federal charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death in the twin bombings that struck near the Marathon finish line on April 15.
His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a confrontation with police in Watertown several days afterward as the two tried to flee the area. Police say they were trying to subdue him when his brother ran him over in a desperate escape.
Authorities say the two also killed an MIT police officer as they tried to escape. No charges have been filed yet in that case.
The White House and law enforcement authorities have previously suggested that the Tsarnaevs may have acted alone without clear ties to foreign governments or terrorist groups.
But investigators have continued to eye other people who knew the brothers to see if they provided them with any help before or after the attacks. Shortly after the brothers were identified, investigators questioned three college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in New Bedford, two of whom have been detained on charges they overstayed their student visas.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, Kazakh nationals, appeared before a federal immigration judge this morning. Their lawyers said they were unaware of any criminal charges against them.
Lawyers for the men said at the hearing they had cooperated with Homeland Security and FBI investigators for hours and were only college buddies with Dzhohkar Tsarnaev and should be released.
The men are being detained in the Suffolk County jail and appeared before immigration Judge Steven F. Day via videoconference, wearing prison scrubs, from the jail. The consul of Kazakhstan, other representatives as well as US government officials were in the court.
The hearing marked the men’s first court appearance since immigration officials arrested and jailed them 11 days ago in New Bedford.
A UMass Dartmouth official confirmed Kadyrbayev was no longer enrolled in school while Tazhayakov was still attending classes.
The Tsarnaev brothers lived in Kyrgyzstan, which neighbors Kazakhstan. People in both countries speak Russian because they all lived in the former Soviet Union, where the official language was Russian.
FBI officers have also questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, for hours to find out what she knows about the plot. Investigators were seen leaving her parents’ home, where Russell has been staying, with bags on Monday.
FBI agents also wanted to collect a DNA sample from Russell to compare with female DNA found on a bomb fragment. The female DNA also could have come from many other sources, including a store clerk who sold some of the raw ingredients in the bomb or a spectator at the race. Russell’s attorney said both she and her family were shocked by the events and are doing everything they can to cooperate with law enforcement.
The agency has also questioned Mikhail “Misha” Allakhverdov, the mysterious Muslim friend that the bombing suspects’ relatives blamed for helping to radicalize Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Allakhverdov has denied he had anything to do with the bombing and has said he has not seen Tamerlan Tsarnaev in years.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for about six months in 2012, raising questions whether he received any training there on how to construct the bombs.