By H. Michael Vincent
The Rockford Record
Two men are in federal custody as the FBI investigates a possible terror cell that may be linked to suspected Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The men, known only as Diaz and Azmat, were arrested Saturday, April 20, in New Bedford, Mass. While the suspects are being held on immigration violations, their arrest was made after police received new information regarding a possible 12-member terror cell operating in the area.
Investigators say the group’s main focus may have been training the brothers to build compact explosives like the bombs used in the marathon attack and those thrown at police officers Thursday night during a car chase.
As many as six makeshift bombs were tossed from a stolen SUV as police chased the Tsarnaev brothers between Cambridge and Watertown. One of the devices was a pressure-cooker bomb that exploded and became embedded in the body of squad car. Others were pipe bombs and homemade hand grenades. A pressure-cooker device was also used in the marathon bombings.
One published report called the bombs “highly sophisticated, not the kind of thing people learn from Google.”
Meantime, authorities are revisiting a 2012 FBI investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev that was sparked by a foreign government’s concern that the Chechen Muslim was engaging in jihadist activities.
While the bureau has confirmed the investigation, it found no evidence he was a threat. Agents are now investigating whether the sleeper cell was operating during that investigation.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed Thursday night during a gunfight with police in Cambridge. He was wearing a vest packed with explosives, police said. Dzhokhar, 19, was captured Friday. He surrendered after exchanging fire with officers from inside a boat parked in the yard of a Watertown resident.
As of Sunday morning, Tsarnaev remains hospitalized, suffering from a gunshot wound to the throat and unable to speak with authorities.
Diaz and Azmat are believed to be students at UMass Dartmouth, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was also enrolled. New Bedford is minutes from Dartmouth.