In a stunning development two and a half weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings, three new suspects have been arrested, according to Boston police and multiple news reports Wednesday afternoon. The three were apparently friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth — and it appears we've already been introduced, through a student visa investigation, to two of them: Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, young Kazakh men now coming under the public microscope. The criminal complaint outlining the charges names a third friend, Robel Phillipos, who has his own complaint, and makes pretty clear that while Tazhaykov and Kadyrbayev lived with each other, none of the three new suspects were roommates with Tsarnarev. As the federal charges against all three — of making false statements to authorities and conspiracy to obstruct justice — continue to unfold (stay tuned right here for investigative updates, and here's a breakdown of the timeline of alleged evidence hiding), here's a running biography of the men who may have helped their accused terrorist classmate after the bombing, based on combined news reports, social media, and beyond.
Here's how you pronounce those names:
Azamat Tazhayakov (AHZ’-maht tuh-ZAYE’-uh-kov)
Dias Kadyrbayev (DYE’-us kad-uhr-BYE-ev)
Robel Phillipos (ROBE-ul PHIL-lipos)
(via Washington Post)
Here's a photograph of Tazhayakov (left), the 19-year-old Kadyrbayev (middle), and Tsarnaev together in Times Square:
(Photo, from 2012, via AP)
They were college buddies, though it seems like only Tsarnaev and Tazhayakov were the only ones enrolled this past semester. According to the AP report from April 27, "Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled; he was last a student in the fall. Tazhayakov is enrolled."
That tidbit about enrollment — and, importantly, Kadyrbayev not being a student — could have been a red flag, since both suspects were in this country on student visas. As NBC's Pete Williams reports, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev were under investigation for not attending classes:
.@petewilliamsnbc on the new suspects: They were under investigation for not attending classes— Sarah Boxer (@Sarah_Boxer) May 1, 2013
The first US government official told CNN that at an immigration court hearing this morning, the court learned that Tazhayakov returned to Kazakhstan in December 2012, and his status with U. Mass-Dartmouth was terminated on January 3. Yet somehow he was allowed to return into the U.S. on January 20.
Here's Dias and Dzhokhar in a photo that's already in question for its social media deletion:
Dias is also apparently pictured in this photo with Tsarnaev, from Tsarnaev's much parsed account on Vkontakte (or VK), Russia's equivalent of Facebook. We had found this photo during our initial search for information on Dzhokhar's social media accounts:
The photo no longer shows up on Dzhokhar's page, or on Kadyrbayev's page. (The two were both tagged, so it showed up on both profile pages, just like Facebook, but in Kadyrbayev's case it was a profile photo — see below for more.) And CNN is reporting that the photo was deleted:
CNN: New Boston suspect deleted photo with Tsarnaev brother after marathon attack— Jon Passantino (@passantino) May 1, 2013
That's significant in that — depending on the timing, and whether it was deleted before or after Tsarnaev's name was released two Thursday ago — the photo could show that Dias knew Tsarnaev was a suspect. And that could possibly show that the roommates knew what they were doing if they were moving items from Tsarnaev's room — aiding a suspect is a big charge in question so far.
According to the criminal complaint against him and his roommate, Kadyrbayev exchanged texts with Tsarnaev that Dzhokhar looked like the suspect the FBI identified:
That's where the timing gets very, very interesting: As we mentioned, Kadyrbayev deleted his photo with Dzhokhar. What's fishy is that Kadyrbayev deleted the photo at around 3 a.m. on the morning of April 19, according to CNN, during the wild night of mayhem in Boston and after Dzhokhar's photo had been released — but before the rest of the world knew that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a suspect. Here's that photo on Kadyrbayev's VK profile wall, from sometime before that deletion:
This is what the profile looks like today — you'll notice the swap of the profile photo happened early April 19:
Here's what's up with the third suspect:
The third new suspect is also believed to be a studente at UMass Dartmouth, and he's now in custody:
BREAKING: Police have taken the third armed robbery suspect into custody this morning. The search prompted the lockdowns of 6 schools.— 10TV.com (@10TV) April 29, 2013
CBS's Charlie Kaye is reporting that the third suspect is named Robel Phillipos.
Criminal complaint identifies third of the three new Boston bombing suspects as Robel Phillipos.— Charlie Kaye (@CharlieKayeCBS) May 1, 2013
That's the same name The Boston Globe has:
Third suspect IDed: Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge is charged with willfully making false material statements to federal law enforcement.— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) May 1, 2013
Phillipos is also named in the criminal complaint—and there is another complaint solely directed to his case. It appears that Phillipos was part of the Cambridge Kids' Council—a program chaired by the mayor of Cambridge and is, according to its website, "dedicated to developing policy recommendations and programs aimed at improving the quality of life for children, youth and families in the City of Cambridge." He was present at a meeting in 2010.
Here's a picture of Phillipos, from RT.com:
And as WCVB's Liam Martin reports, Phillipos lives close to where the carjacking occurred. Which could mean that the Tsarnaev brothers were close to Phillipos's house while they were on the run.
Here's how we already knew about Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev:
That AP report from last Wednesday popped up because the two roommates — again, they lived with one another but not with Tsarnaev — were already in custody and were detained on April 20: "They have been held in a county jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," reported the AP, which added that "Lawyers for two men friendly with the Boston Marathon bombing suspect say their clients have been extensively interviewed by federal investigators."
Here's where Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev lived:
According to the AP, the two "had lived at an off-campus apartment in New Bedford, about 60 miles south of Boston." That's the same town where authorities were searching for missing laptops.
Here's Kadyrbayev's apparent car license plate, which says 'TERRORISTA #1':
This picture was found on Tsarnaev's Twitter account:
Kadyrbayev's lawyers told the AP that the license plate is a joke:
The pair ... got around in a car registered to Kadyrbayev with a souvenir plate that says "Terrorista (hash)1." The car was pictured on Tsarnaev's Twitter feed in March.
That plate was just a joke gift from some of Kadyrbayev's friends, meant to invoke his penchant for late-night partying rather than his political sentiments, Stahl said
Here's what Azamat looks like:
Here's what Dias looks like:
Here's another photo of Dias and Dzhokhar together:
Dias's father, who was interviewed last week, acknowledged that his son knew Dzhokhar, but maintained that the only violation his son might be guilty of, well, was that student visa violation. Here's more from Tengri News:
Speaking about his son, he said that the only violation his son could have possibly committed was a migration violation. It is a case with student visas that when a foreign student misses classes it is considered a violation of student visa terms. According to Murat Kadyrbayev, Dias and Azamat “missed a couple or maybe several classes. I hope that American police will look into the facts and make the right decision. Most of the students who came in contact with Tsarnayev are being checked now, my son is not the only one. Nobody is an exception.” “They used to have common friends, they knew Tsarnaev and hang around together sometimes. They were released in the end and were questioned only as witnesses,” Kadyrbayev said.
Here's what Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are suspected of doing:
Removing evidence, apparently:
We've learned that after #BostonBombing, when Tsarnaev bros on the run, the two Kazakh men went to younger bro's apt and took computers etc— Mike Levine (@MikeLevineFNC) May 1, 2013
NBC's Williams insists that the charges stem from actions after the bombings and that they may have removed items from Tsarnaev's room. Williams reports that it is unclear how much information they had about Tsarnaev's culpability when they allegedly removed the items.
According to ABC News, officials were searching landfills near UMass Dartmouth for one of the Tsarnaevs' laptops, meaning they might believe that someone may have gotten rid of the equipment near the campus:
Authorities spent several days searching for Tamerlan Tsarnaev's laptop in a New Bedford landfill near the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, where younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attended college, sources told ABC News.
It was unclear if investigators found the laptop, however sources told ABC News authorities found a cell phone believed to belong to Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a nearby apartment.