BOSTON — Dias Kadyrbayev was driving back to his apartment when he got a call from a college buddy. A clearly anxious Robel Phillipos told him authorities had released photos of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers — and one of them looked very familiar.
When he got home, Kadrybayev turned on the television to see a shaggy-haired Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his friend, classmate and, by then, one of the most wanted men in the world.
That call set in motion a series of events that on Wednesday turned three college pals into key figures in one of the largest terrorist investigations ever on U.S. soil. According to an FBI affidavit based on interviews with all three men, this is how it played out.
Kadyrbayev first met Tsarnaev in 2011, when they both started at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, south of Boston, near the base of Cape Cod. He told authorities he became "better friends" with the ethnic Chechen in spring 2012, and that he was a frequent visitor to the rundown Tsarnaev home in Cambridge.
Kadyrbayev and fellow Kazakh, Azamat Tazhayakov, hung out together on and off campus with Tsarnaev. The three 19-year-olds often spoke Russian among themselves.
Kadyrbayev, an engineering major, was headed back to the New Bedford apartment that he and Tazhayakov shared when Phillipos called. It was April 18, three days since the twin bombings that killed three and wounded more than 260.
When he saw the images of Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, Kadyrbayev texted his friend and told him that he looked a lot like the guy on the television.
"lol" Dzhokhar replied, according to the FBI affidavit. Then Tsarnaev's messages took on a more ominous tone.
"you better not text me," read one.
"come to my room and take whatever you want," read another.
A month earlier, during a meal, Dzhokhar had apparently felt the need to tell his Russian-speaking chums that he'd learned how to make a bomb. Even so, Kadyrbayev told authorities he thought his friend's texts were a joke.
The Kazhaks and Phillipos, who'd attended the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School with "Jahar," as Dzhokhar was known, agreed to meet at Pine Dale Hall, their friend's dorm. Phillipos, the 19-year-old son of a single mother, said he wanted to see for himself whether the TV reports were true.
Tsarnaev's roommate let them in, saying they'd missed him by a couple of hours.
According to Kadyrbayev, the trio decided to watch a movie (he didn't specify which one). At some point, they noticed a backpack.
Inside, they discovered more than a half-dozen fireworks, each about 8 inches long, according to the affidavit. The black powder had been scooped out.
Kadyrbayev said he knew instantly that his friend was indeed involved in the bombings. But instead of calling authorities, he told investigators he began thinking of ways to get rid of the evidence.
Just in case the roommate thought he was "stealing or behaving suspiciously" by grabbing the backpack alone, Kadyrbayev decided to take Tsarnaev's laptop as well.
The three returned to the Kazhaks' apartment and watched news reports of the intensifying manhunt. They discussed what to do with Tsarnaev's things.
As the situation's gravity began to sink in, Phillipos — whose own text to Tsarnaev went unanswered — said everyone "started to freak out," according to authorities. The other two men began speaking to each other in Russian.
Around 11 p.m., according to Phillipos, Kadrybayev broached the topic of ditching the stuff. Phillipos says he replied, "Do what you have to do," then managed to drift off to sleep.
When he awoke from his two-hour nap, the backpack and computer were gone.
By then, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dead, cut down in a hail of police gunfire, then run over by his fleeing brother. Later that night, the three friends' college buddy, bleeding from several gunshot wounds, surrendered from his hiding place under a tarp covering a boat in the backyard of a home in Watertown.
On April 26, authorities found the backpack in a New Bedford landfill. According to the affidavit, it contained the emptied fireworks, a jar of Vaseline and a UMass-Dartmouth homework assignment sheet from a class in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently enrolled.
BOSTON — Three more suspects have been taken into custody in the marathon bombings, city police said Wednesday.
The police department made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying more details would follow. Police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca confirmed the tweet but referred all other questions to the FBI.
Three people were killed and more than 260 injured on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the finish line.
Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police several days later. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and lies in a hospital prison.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev's relatives will claim his body now that his wife has agreed to release it, an uncle said. Tsarnaev, 26, has been at the medical examiner's office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities more than a week ago.
Amato DeLuca, the Rhode Island attorney for his widow, Katherine Russell, said Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev's body and that she wants it released to his side of the family.
Police said Tsarnaev ran out of ammunition before his 19-year-old brother dragged his body under a vehicle while fleeing the scene. His cause of death has been determined but will not be made public until his remains are claimed.
"Of course, family members will take possession of the body," uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "We'll do it. We will do it. A family is a family."
He would not elaborate. Tsarnaev's parents are still in Russia, but he has other relatives on his side of the family in the U.S., including Tsarni.
Tsarnaev's father, Anzor, announced plans last week to travel to the U.S. in the hope of burying his elder son, but he told the AP on Wednesday that those plans are off because he is suffering from bad headaches and high blood pressure. The 46-year-old Tsarnaev said he still hopes to go when he is feeling better.
Dzhokhar was wounded in the shootout with police as he and his brother made their getaway attempt. He is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, a crime that carries a potential death sentence.
Russian agents placed the older suspect under surveillance during a six-month visit to southern Russia last year, then scrambled to find him when he suddenly disappeared after police killed a Canadian jihadist, a security official told the AP.
U.S. law enforcement officials have been trying to determine whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev was indoctrinated or trained by militants during his visit to Dagestan, a Caspian Sea province that has become the center of a simmering Islamic insurgency.
The security official with the Anti-Extremism Center, a federal agency under Russia's Interior Ministry, confirmed the Russians shared their concerns. He said that Russian agents were watching Tsarnaev, and that they searched for him when he disappeared two days after the July 2012 death of the Canadian man, who had joined the Islamic insurgency in the region. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
Security officials suspected ties between Tsarnaev and the Canadian — an ethnic Russian named William Plotnikov — according to the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which is known for its independence and investigative reporting and cited an unnamed official with the Anti-Extremism Center, which tracks militants. The newspaper said the men had social networking ties that brought Tsarnaev to the attention of Russian security services for the first time in late 2010.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday at a news conference that the U.S. counterterrorism bureaucracy "did what it was supposed to be doing" before the Boston Marathon bombing as his top intelligence official began a review into whether sensitive information was adequately shared and whether the U.S. government could have disrupted the attack.
"We want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken," Obama said. "We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to see, is there in fact additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack."
In Rhode Island, DeLuca said Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow met with law enforcement "for many hours over the past week" and will continue cooperating. FBI agents on Monday visited her parents' North Kingstown, R.I., home, where she has been staying, and carried away several bags.
"Katherine and her family continue to be deeply saddened by the harm that has been caused," DeLuca said Tuesday.
Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said Tuesday evening that the state had not yet received Russell's request to release her husband's body.
He said arrangements must be made to release the body and once that happens a death certificate will be filed and the cause of death made public. He said it is too soon to speculate on when that might happen.