By Cindy Saine – U.S. authorities have arrested and charged three more men in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. The suspects are accused of aiding one of the Boston bombers, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, after the attack by conspiring to obstruct the investigation.
Three newly-arrested suspects appeared in a Boston federal courtroom briefly Wednesday afternoon. Two of them, Dias Kadyrbayev, 19 years old and Azamat Tazhayakov, also 19 years old, are both nationals of Kazakhstan who entered the United States on student visas.
The two are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by conspiring to destroy, conceal and cover-up a laptop and a backpack containing empty fireworks belonging to the suspected bomber who is in police custody, Dhokhar Tsarnaev.
The two men could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
An attorney for Dias Kadyrbayev, Robert Stahl, told reporters that his client is not guilty and has been assisting Federal Bureau of Investigation officials.
“He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is. He did not know that this individual was involved in the bombing. His first inkling came much later,” he said.
A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, 19 years old, is charged with willfully making materially false statements to federal law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation. Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, could face a maximum of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Media reports say the three men attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with the younger brother suspected in the Boston bombing, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, and have now admitted that they removed a backpack and a laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and and did not inform authorities.
No evidence has been released at this time that would indicate that the newly charged suspects aided the two Tsarnaev brothers before the Boston bombings, and Boston police say there is no threat to the public.
The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama is briefed on the Boston bombing investigation regularly. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, President Obama expressed confidence in the job U.S. intelligence officials are doing, and said it is very hard to prevent smaller attacks planned by individuals.
“One of the dangers we now face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the U.S. and in some cases, might not be part of any network,” he said.
U.S. lawmakers were briefed last week by intelligence officials and told reporters afterwards that they were told that the Tsarnaev brothers likely learned bomb-making from jihadist websites.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California said it may be that the face of the terrorist threat is changing.
“Well, you know probably the most profound question that has been raised by this is, ‘has the nature of the threat changed?’ Is it a situation where we are now facing more what Europe has faced, with a alienation of part of the immigrant population, self-radicalization? That is a different challenge than those that are trained overseas or receive material support from overseas and come here to attack us,” he said.
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing next week on the Boston bombings and the implications for U.S. national security.