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Police Move Neighorhood To Neighorhood Looking For Suspect


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. We are reviewing an astonishing morning and waiting for more developments as police in the Boston area search for a suspect who is still believed to at large in the Boston Marathon bombing. Many people may still be waking up, may just be waking up to this coverage. Let's review very quickly. Police last night released images from the Boston Marathon bombing of two men, then one of those men was seen on a security camera robbing a 7-11 last night. Police converged on Boston suburbs. There was a car chase. There were a number of violent incidents. An MIT police officer was killed. A Boston transit cop was wounded. Police fired at these two suspects in an SUV.

The men dropped explosives - one of them, identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed. Another, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, at last word was still at large, possibly in Watertown, Massachusetts. That's where police are looking, anyway.

GREENE: And Steve, police have been focusing on a building in Watertown, Massachusetts. It's a suburb of Boston. There's been a lot of intense police activity there for some time. One of the reporters on the scene is Fred Bever; he works for our great member station in Boston, WBUR. And Fred, bring us up to date on exactly what you're seeing now.

FRED BEVER, BYLINE: Well, the police have been in and out of the building that you mentioned, at least twice, and up and down the blocks, and there's been several bursts of activity. Right now it's comparatively quiet, and you know, they're moving through various neighborhoods where they had tips, or where a dog points to something or where a neighbor says something. And so it's very fluid. I think it's just very difficult at least to know which way to turn.

GREENE: It sounds very important to make this point, because earlier when we spoke, a couple hours ago, it sounded like police were focusing on a building. You were saying they are now covering a larger area, going even into different neighborhoods. And so their search has expanded. It sounds like we're no longer certain at all that there's one building where one of these suspects is held up.

BEVER: No, and I don't think they were ever certain. There was one building in the area where I have been that was the subject of a lot of intense scrutiny. However, all night they've been searching various houses and doing it door to door. This was a situation where you had two SWAT teams rushing in, the street very quickly being cordoned off, and a couple of situations where there was a kind of mad rushing around and pushing back of the journalists - not that that's a bad thing, but it was a few chaotic moments.

GREENE: Yeah, sometimes they need to get reporters out of the way to...

BEVER: They've been methodical about other parts of the city. There have been various reports that you hear on scanners, of someone being found here or someone, you know, a man trying to get a ride very early in the morning; a bunch of police responded to that, to try to find that.

GREENE: So they're following up on any lead they hear about, it sounds like.

BEVER: Yes. Yes, as long as they think it's going to be mildly credible. Yes, they - and they are working so hard. It's unbelievable how hard these people are working over the last 30 hours.

INSKEEP: Fred Bever of WBUR, stay with us for a moment, because I want to focus in on the person police are searching for. We're told he's 19 years old. We're told his name is Dzhokar Tsarnaev. NPR's Tom Gjelten is with us and has been listening along as we have heard from a couple of people who have met this young man in the past. He lived in Boston for a number of years. What is known about him?

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: He seems to be quite assimilated or integrated into American society. I mean we spoke with a young man who described himself as a very close friend of his. He went to a public school in Cambridge. He's apparently been here actually since his middle school years. Nevertheless, we do understand that they - his family is originally from Chechnya. Now, there's an interesting connection here, though, that we are trying to clarify.

The AP today interviewed a man they identified as Dzhokar's father, and they said that they interviewed him in Makhachkala, which is the capital of Dagestan - right, David?

GREENE: It is. It's a neighboring republic...

GJELTEN: A neighboring republic. So - so it's possible that this family has ties not only to Chechnya but to Dagestan. And that is something we just haven't been able to confirm all the details. At what point did the family leave? Did the entire family leave? Did his father stay behind? Those are some of the details that we are trying to learn.

GREENE: And this could be very important. Because again, we don't know any details of these people yet that would point to a motive. But Dagestan and Chechnya, different places. I mean it actually surprised one security expert we spoke to earlier, saying that he could have seen people carrying out, you know, violent actions from Chechnya maybe 10 years. He said it would surprise him if it was happening today. But again, we'll sort all this out, and we don't know - we don't know enough yet about these two young men.

GJELTEN: Well two young men, and the other point is that he does have or did have an older brother, seven years older, 26 years old, Tamerlan, and he - it's possible that he had much closer connections to the homeland, as it were, than Dzhokhar had, and you know, if there was some radicalization involved here, you would want to look as closely or even more closely at his brother, his older brother's travels in recent years.

INSKEEP: Although these are both guys who had spent time in the United States, who were involved in sports here, who at least in the case of...

GJELTEN: Went to college.

INSKEEP: The younger man had a number of friends, was described as the light of a party, a playful kid who backed a car in reverse down a one-way street, I mean remarkable little details of young lives and very little in what we've heard about either of them that would point to any definite reason that they would to target the United States, that they would want to target the Boston Marathon.

GJELTEN: It's a huge mystery. The Boston Marathon, such a soft target, an iconic target for the people of Boston, not necessarily an iconic target for - in terms of the identity of the country as a whole, certainly abroad, not the kind of target that you would expect, you know, an al-Qaida group to go after. I mean we know that al-Qaida has been interested in hitting U.S. monuments, for example, and important buildings in New York.

The Boston Marathon, you know, that kind of left a few people scratching their heads.

INSKEEP: Some of your reporting has suggested even this week that counterterrorism officials for quite some time have thought that maybe these sort of soft targets weren't even very appealing to conventional terrorists.

GJELTEN: Well, there is something - you look at this from a counterterrorism perspective, and I just got this email just about an hour ago from a counterterrorist specialist who says the simple nature of this attack, the effort to rob a convenience store, the lack of an escape plan, all of this would be characteristics of not a sophisticated plan but a - something like more of a grassroots operation.

INSKEEP: Let's make sure we explain the speculation of that counterterrorism expert. They are presuming that there wasn't an escape plan, since the suspects seem not to have left the Boston area. He's wondering if maybe the robbing the 7-11 was some kind of effort to get money in order to survive on the run for a while. He's asking that question, anyway.

GJELTEN: I think the speculation here is - or the idea, the thinking here is that there are some amateurish elements to this operation.

INSKEEP: I want to correct our mistakes when we make them, and the gentleman I referred to as Fred Bever (pronounced "BEE-ver") is of course Fred Bever (pronounced "BEV-er"), and he is still on the line in Watertown, Massachusetts. And Fred, before we go away to our local stations, I'd like to just come back to you one more time. And can you give us an idea of what - how strange has it been in that community to have it locked down throughout the night, throughout the morning, and police just everywhere?

BEVER: Well, the streets, other than police and media, have been silent. There are a few bystanders who now are out and taking pictures. It's actually a beautiful spring day here. The cherry blossoms have just started to bloom. And so it's a day which ordinarily would be a wonderful day. I'm watching a Boston police SWAT truck drive right by one of those blossoming trees.


BEVER: I think that's the kind of day it is here.

GREENE: That kind of tells the story right there, and we know some of those SWAT teams have actually been in residents' yards, which is just an extraordinary image to think about. Fred Bever from member station WBUR, on the scene there for us in Watertown, Massachusetts, thank you so much.

FRED BEVER: Thank you.

GREENE: And Tom Gjelten in the studio with us, we'll be returning to you as well. Thanks for all of your reporting this morning, Tom.

GJELTEN: You bet.

GREENE: Again, just to round things out and for people who might be just waking up and checking in, the big story we're following this morning, it's quickly developing, there's a manhunt in Boston, a search for one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. As we understand it, police are going from neighborhood to neighborhood in the suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts, and the entire city of Boston, including its surrounding suburbs, are in lockdown.

Police are still telling residents that they should stay in their homes to be safe. We'll be following this story all morning and all day here from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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