Report: Tsarnaev Brothers Considered Suicide Mission

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 3 2013 10:24 AM

The Tsarnaev Brothers' Ever-Changing Plot May Have Originally Been a Suicide Mission

FBI5
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and his brother, Dzhokhar, on the day of the Boston Marathon bombings

Photo courtesy of the FBI

The New York Times offers us the latest scoop from federal investigators' initial interviews with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after he was taken into custody but before he was read his Miranda rights: The surviving suspect reportedly said he and his brother had originally considered launching suicide attacks and striking on the Fourth of July:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Tsarnaev, 19, told investigators that he and his brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was killed in a shootout with the police, ultimately decided to use pressure-cooker bombs and other homemade explosive devices, the officials said.
The brothers finished building the bombs in Tamerlan’s apartment in Cambridge, Mass., faster than they had anticipated, and so decided to accelerate their attack to the Boston Marathon on April 15, Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, according to the account that Dzhokhar provided to authorities. They picked the finish line of the marathon after driving around the Boston area looking for alternative sites, according to this account.
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Obviously, this information is coming secondhand from something of an unreliable narrator (Dzhokhar), and authorities will still need to confirm it independently. It's not clear how serious the Tsarnaevs were about either aspect of what Dzhokhar described as their original plans, nor is it clear whether they necessarily considered both at the same time (that is, launching a suicide attack on the Fourth of July).

If true, however, the account would be the latest example in what appears to be the remarkably fluid and impulsive nature of the brothers' planning process. Not only did the suspects appear to lack a concrete getaway plan in the days following the attack, they also are said to have briefly considered a spur-of-the-moment trip to New York City to detonate their remaining explosives in Times Square as police were closing in on them in suburban Boston. And now we're told that the brothers picked a new date for the attack basically because they grew impatient, and decided on the exact location after doing what sounds like a remarkably little amount of reconnaissance.

You can check out the full Times report here, which includes a handful of other interesting details about the current investigation into the bombings.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***

This post was updated at 10:35 a.m. with additional analysis.