Official Washington remained totally transfixed today by the manhunt around Boston.
President Barack Obama was holed up in the West Wing following the rapidly unfolding and violent developments in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. He spent part of the morning in a briefing with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and CIA Director John O. Brennan
“This entire week we’ve been in a pretty direct confrontation with evil,” Secretary of State John Kerry said after participating in the meeting by teleconference. Until two months ago, Kerry was the senior senator from Massachusetts.
The only event on Capitol Hill was a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bipartisan immigration proposal but the one witness, Napolitano, canceled to be with the president. The panel’s top Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said the situation underscored the importance of figuring out the existing shortcomings in the immigration system before contemplating an overhaul.
The suspects have been widely identified by law enforcement officials as brothers from a Russian region near Chechnya. But an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in the Washington suburb of Montgomery Village, said the men had emigrated almost a decade ago and had lived near Boston ever since.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed following a convenience store robbery overnight, during a car chase and gun battle in Watertown in which improvised hand grenades were tossed from a carjacked Mercedes and one police officer was killed; he was 26 and was the one wearing the black baseball cap in the surveillance footage the FBI released Thursday.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the one filmed wearing a white ball cap backwards, escaped and was the focus of a phenomenal manhunt that prompted officials to stop all mass transit systems and order everyone in Boston and several suburbs to stay indoors.
“We believe this to be a terrorist,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said before dawn this morning. “We believe this to be a man here to kill people.”
“They have never been in Chechnya, they have nothing to do with Chechnya,” Tsarni told reporters who swarmed his home, and he urged his surviving nephew to turn himself in.
The Chechen region of the Caucuses has been plagued for years by an Islamic insurgency that has pressed its cause with a series of bomb attacks, mainly in Moscow. Tsarni said he was confident that his nephews had no attachment to that cause. “Being losers, not being able to settle themselves,” was his response when asked to speculate on their motive.