Report: Boston bombers first planned July 4th attacks

The two brothers accused of last month’s Boston Marathon terrorist attack initially planned a July 4th attack on the city, The New York Times reported Friday.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who is in custody awaiting trial, told investigators that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who died following a shootout with police, wanted to plant bombs at an Independence Day celebration on the Charles River Esplanade, but settled on the finish line of the Boston Marathon after scouting the city for attack sites.

According to the report, Tsarnaev also told officials the brothers considered suicide bombings, and that they were influenced by watching Internet sermons of the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who was killed in a drone strike after moving to Yemen.

Tsarnaev allegedly told officials of the July 4th plan while recovering in the hospital, before he was read his Miranda rights. Police questioned the younger brother using the public safety exception, which has since become a hotly contested issue in Washington.

Some Republicans say authorities should have waited even longer to inform the suspect of his right to remain silent in order to gather more intelligence on the attacks.

Tsarnaev is facing federal charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and is being investigated for the shooting death of an MIT police officer. He was moved late last week from a hospital to a federal prison medical center, where he reportedly remains in solitary confinement behind a steel door.

The New York Times also reported on Friday that federal authorities consider the older Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, a person of interest in the investigation. According to the report, “federal authorities are skeptical of Ms. Russell’s insistence that she played no role in the attack or in helping the brothers elude the authorities after the F.B.I. released photographs of them.”

Russell’s fingerprints and DNA were not found on bomb fragments, but the reports say she stopped cooperating with authorities in recent days.

The revelations come amid a flood of new developments in the wake of the marathon bombing that killed three people and injured more than 250.

Earlier this week, officials arrested three teenagers, believed to be roommates and acquaintances of the surviving suspect, on charges they aided him after the attack by lying to authorities and throwing away evidence.

And on Thursday, the body of the older suspect was released by the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to a funeral service provider obtained by the Tsarnaev family.

The medical examiner would not say which family member claimed the body, but it is not believed to be Russell. The cause of death will become public once the funeral service files the medical examiner’s report, likely next week.