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By Jake Tapper
A U.S. government official tells CNN that the three students in law enforcement custody Wednesday are two students from Kazakhstan, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, and another student, U.S. citizen Robel Phillipos. The official says that their case reveals more holes in information sharing.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are being charged with obstruction of justice. Complaints from the U.S. Attorney Office say they helped destroy evidence that might further implicate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the April 15 terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, namely disposing of a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The complaints say Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov "admitted that they agreed to get rid of [the backpack] after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers."
Last Friday, law enforcement searched a landfill for evidence; those items were what they were looking for, this official says.
Two U.S. government officials caution that as of now law enforcement officials do not know that these three individuals were involved in the attack; they emphasize that all that the three are being charged with is illegal actions after the terrorist bombings.
A second U.S. government official says that the students claim that after the Tsarnaevs’ pictures were released late afternoon on Thursday, April 18 - but before they were identified by name publicly Friday morning - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev contacted the three, and asked them to dispose of the items. They claim they did not know the significance of what they were doing, the second U.S. government official told CNN.
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and the third student were interviewed by the FBI on Friday, April 19, four days after the bombing, after law enforcement learned the identity of the Tsarnaev brothers. The interview, the official said, lasted late into the evening and into Saturday morning. But there wasn’t enough evidence to charge them with a crime.
It wasn’t until the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division heard about the interviews later on Saturday that they realized Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were not currently of legal immigration status, and ICE officials went to pick them up and detain them.
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.
“They shouldn’t have let him in,” the first official told CNN. “Bells should have gone off.”
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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