Tim Clary and Tim Witcher | AFP
BOSTON, Massachusetts – US police on Friday captured Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, suspected of staging the Boston marathon bombings, after a massive manhunt that virtually shut down the city and its suburbs and left his older brother and accomplice dead.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was found hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard in Watertown, wounded and weary after a gun battle with police overnight in which his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was killed in a wild shootout.
“Captured!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody,” Boston police department said on its Twitter account after Tsarnaev was taken away to applause from people standing in a nearby street in Watertown.
A neighbor alerted police after seeing blood coming from the boat where the youth had taken refuge, according to media reports.
The University of Massachusetts student was surrounded by a small army of police special forces for a final showdown which lasted nearly two hours.
The surrender ended a dramatic four days after two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and wounding about 180 in the worst attack on the United States since the September 11, 2001 atrocities.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan were named as the main suspects. They were also at the center of a violent spree in which one policeman was killed and a second officer wounded.
The bombings traumatized the city with investigators at first seeming to be struggling to find the attackers.
A major breakthrough came when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Thursday released video and picture images of the Tsarnaev brothers as they walked in Boston’s Boylston Street where the attacks took place.
Within hours of that press conference, the brothers embarked on a final rampage through the Boston suburbs.
The brothers were captured on a video surveillance camera in a convenience store near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge late Thursday. A police officer was killed in a campus shootout minutes later, according to authorities.
The suspects then carjacked a Mercedes, sparking a high-speed police chase to Watertown. Police said the two men hurled explosives out of the car window before the elder brother was shot. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died of bullet wounds and injuries from explosives strapped to his body, a hospital doctor said.
A police officer was wounded in the clash and Tamerlan’s use of explosives sparked the fears that his brother also had bombs on his body.
Police launched a huge manhunt on Friday with 9,000 police surrounding Watertown and parts of nearby districts hoping to isolate the teenager who was wounded in the shootout in which his brother was killed.
Authorities halted all public transport and ordered schools and universities closed and told people in most of the Boston region to stay in their homes.
Tsarnaev was spotted a few minutes after police chiefs and political leaders ended a press conference at which they said they believed the teenager had eluded their operation.
The brothers are ethnic Chechen Muslims who moved to the United States about a decade ago. Their social media pages appeared to express sympathy with the struggle of Chechnya, which has been ravaged by two wars since 1994 between Russia and increasingly Islamist-leaning separatist rebels.
The suspects’ father Anzor Tsarnaev told Russia’s Interfax news agency his sons had been “set up by the secret services because they are practicing Muslims.”
An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said however that his nephews “put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity” and that the teenaged Dzhokhar should give himself up and seek “forgiveness”.
The attack on the marathon sent a hail of nails and shrapnel into crowds of thousands on Boston’s Boylston Street.
Boston has held emotional tributes to the dead — eight-year-old Martin Richard, Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi of China and Krystle Campbell, a restaurant manager.
More than 100 of the wounded have left Boston hospitals and fewer than 10 of those still in hospital remain in critical condition. Some have horrific injuries and will require new operations, doctors said.
The FBI acknowledged on Friday that an unnamed foreign government had asked about Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2001 but they had found no key information.
President Barack Obama, who was briefed by his national security team on developments in Boston, has pledged that the “evil” bombers would be brought to justice when he went to the city on Thursday.