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Russia failed to tell FBI about Islamic jihad call, report says

WASHINGTON — The Russian government declined to provide the F.B.I. with information about Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years before the attack that might have prompted more extensive scrutiny of him, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

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The information is contained in an inspector general’s review of how American intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombing.

Russian officials had told the F.B.I. in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer,” the New York Times reported, and that Tsarnaev had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to Russia.

But after an initial investigation by F.B.I. agents in Boston, the Russians declined several bureau requests for additional information they had about him, the newspaper reported.

The report found that it was only after the bombing occurred last April that the Russians shared with the F.B.I. the additional intelligence, including information from a telephone conversation the Russian authorities had intercepted between Tsarnaev and his mother in which they discussed Islamic jihad.

FBI debated release of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev photos at finish line

Suspect 2 is highlighted

BOSTON — FBI officials say they debated whether to release photos that led to the capture of a suspect in last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds of others.

Stephanie Douglas, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Division, said in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday that releasing images of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  was the right thing to do even though an MIT police officer was killed soon after.

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Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, killed officer Sean Collier while on the run.

Douglas says law enforcement “really had no choice” but to release the photos.

She says an argument against releasing the security camera images was that they could have provided an incentive for the still unidentified suspects to escape.

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Incident happened at St. Joseph’s College on Wednesday 

STANDISH, Maine — The Maine Fire Marshal’s Office said it has charged two St. Joesph’s College students with throwing acid bombs from their dorm on Wednesday.

Investigators said the two students threw three acid bombs from a second-story window to the ground below.

Two of the three devices exploded near an emergency exit at Standish Hall, according to the Fire Marshal’s Office.

No one was injured, but more than 100 students were in the building at the time.

Lindsay Carr, a student, was concerned by what happened.

“I know what the potential damage is, not only to property but also to people. So it’s definitely not a smart or safe idea,” Carr said.

Victor Santos, 18, of Framingham, Mass.; and Brandon Ward, 19, of Houlton; both freshman, were issued a summons for criminal use of explosives.

An acid bomb is usually made up of household solvents placed in a plastic soda bottle that explodes in a chemical reaction.

The result is an acidic spray that can cause serious injury to those who come in contact with it.

Nathan Santeramo lives in Standish Hall with both Santos and Ward. He called the incident a prank that went too far.

“If people know what a Mentos bomb is, like you put soda in with the Mentos. It’s a step up from that really. They’re good boys. They didn’t have bad intentions. They didn’t want to hurt anybody. People weren’t terrorized or anything like that. A lot of people knew what was going on. It wasn’t like they had any intent to harm anybody. They’re good boys,” Santeramo said.

The college is conducting its own investigation. In the meantime, Santos and Wood are allowed to stay in school while the case works its way through the criminal justice system.

Santos and Wood are scheduled to appear in court on April 16. via AFP – Getty Images, file

Russia’s top Islamist leader Doku Umarov, left, in an undated video posted on July 3, 2013.

By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News

trio of deadly bombings in Volgograd ahead of the Winter Olympics has focused new attention on notorious Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, who has claimed responsibility for a wave of similar terrorist attacks in the name of Islam and vowed to stop the Sochi Games.

In a video statement this summer, the self-proclaimed emir of Caucasus declared that holding the global sports spectacular in the Black Sea resort amounted to “demonic dances on the bones of our ancestors” and said his band of rebels would “use all means” to derail the event.

A security clampdown at Sochi makes a major assault at the actual Olympic Games unlikely, some analysts say, but Volgograd — some 600 miles northeast of Sochi — is the biggest city in the region and a transit hub. Two of this week’s bombings have targeted public transportation, which may give travelers from across Russia and around the world the jitters.

“The most likely suspect is either Umarov or some group connected to him,” said David Satter, a Russian scholar at the Hudson Institute. “It’s all very worrisome.”

No one has taken credit for the Volgograd carnage, and it’s not clear how much direct control Umarov, who is about 49, exercises over the loosely knit coalition of autonomous Islamist groups in the so-called Caucasus Emirate that could be to blame.

But experts say the cabals under his umbrella share a common goal — global jihad — and he has become the camera-ready face of that ideology in the region.

His early history is murky — he claims his parents were part of the Chechen intelligentsia and there are reports he got an engineering degree or did prison time — but he joined the insurgency against the Russian Federation in 1994 and fought in the second war that began in 1999.

He rose through the ranks of the Chechen independence movement until he split off from some of his old political allies in 2007 and announced a new religion-based mission: to unite Northern Caucasus into a single Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.

“Today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Palestine, our brothers are fighting,” he said at the time. “Everyone who attacked Muslims wherever they are are our enemies, common enemies. Our enemy is not Russia only, but everyone who wages war against Islam and Muslims.”

Sergei Karpov / Reuters

Flowers placed at the site of an explosion on a trolleybus in Volgograd.

Although he had rejected terrorism in a 2005 interview, in his new role he soon embraced sabotage and attacks on civilians, arguing it was justified by the government’s brutal crackdown on separatists.

In August 2009, a group linked to him claimed it had bombed the Sayno-Shushenskata hydro-electric plant in Siberia, killing more than two dozen people, though the government later insisted it was an accident.

Three months later, Umarov’s separatists said they had orchestrated a blast that derailed the high-speed Nevsky Express train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, killing 27 people.

That was followed by the March 2010 suicide bombings of the Moscow subway, which killed 39 people. Umarov said it was retribution for the death of four garlic-picking villagers at the hands of security forces.

His message to Russians at the time: “I promise you that war will come to your streets and you will feel it in your lives, feel it on your own skin.”

Umarov also claimed he ordered the suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, which killed 36 people in February 2011.

“More special operations will be carried out in the future,” he said in a video posted on the Internet.

“Among us there are hundreds of brothers who are prepared to sacrifice themselves. … We can at any time carry out operations where we want.”

The father of six — who retired as emir in 2010 only to change his mind days later — was even allegedly behind a plot to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin that was reportedly foiled in 2012.

Andrew Kutchins, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Umarov has not been definitively tied to some of the attacks and “sometimes he may be talking more game than he has.”

“He hasn’t been able to establish the authority over a network as successfully as someone like Osama bin Laden,” Kutchins said.
“He’s kind of a publicity hound for sure. Just how operationally effective he has been is impossible to say.”

Several times, Russian and Chechen officials have claimed Umarov was dead. But despite taking a bullet to the jaw and stepping on a landmine, he survived to to make his most audacious threat in July — that he would stop the Sochi Games.

“Sochi has been under virtual lockdown and to penetrate that is going to be very, very difficult,” Kutchins said. “But to create a sense of terror in Russia and outside Russia about the Games could very well likely be the goal.

“We may be seeing the beginning of a series of terrorist attacks to terrorize the country — to lead some delegations to think about not attending the Games, to cast a dark shadow over Vladimir Putin’s leadership and his claims he has brought security and stability to Russia.”


Rush-hour blast kills 14 in Volgograd, Russia; 3rd deadly attack in four days

Sergei Karpov / Reuters

Emergency services officials work at the site of a bomb blast on a trolley bus in Volgograd, Russia, on Monday.

By Albina Kovalyova and Daniel Arkin, NBC News

MOSCOW – At least 14 people were killed and 28 wounded when an explosion ripped through a trolley bus in the Russian city of Volgograd on Monday, the country’s third deadly attack in four days.

The explosion, which tore out much of the electric vehicle’s exterior and left mangled bodies on the street, raised fears about more violence in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics that Russia will host in six weeks.

“For the second day, we are dying – it’s a nightmare,” a woman near the scene told Reuters, her voice trembling. “What are we supposed to do, just walk now?”

With only 39 days until the winter Olympic Games in Russia, today’s suicide-bomber attack at a train station has some questioning whether the nation is ready to host the international event. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports.

Volgograd, a city of around one million about 400 miles northeast of Sochi, is a key transport hub for southern Russia, with many bus routes linking it to the volatile provinces in the North Caucasus.

On Sunday, at least 16 people were killed in a terror attack by a suspected female suicide bomber at a railway station in Volgograd. And on Friday, a car bomb killed three people in the southern Russian city of Pyatigorsk, 170 miles east of Sochi, where the Olympics will be held.

In October, another female suicide bomber was blamed for a bus explosion in Volgograd that killed five people.

Russian investigators said it was possible that blasts on Sunday and Monday were linked.

“Right now, we can tentatively say that the explosion was detonated by a male suicide bomber, whose remains have been collected and sent for genetic examination and identification,” the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, the country’s main investigative agency, said in a statement on its website.

“Like the explosive device at the train station, this [device] was filled with shrapnel, so this proves the suspicions of the investigation that there is a link between the two attacks. It is possible they were prepared in the same place.”

Earlier, investigators had said that the bus blast came from a bomb that most likely had been planted in the vehicle’s passenger area, according to The Associated Press.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but the leaders of an insurgency that aims to create an Islamic state out of Muslim provinces south of Volgograd have urged militants to use “maximum force” to stop the Olympics from being held.

Security officials around the world are concerned about terrorist attacks at the Olympic Games. NBC Counter-terrorism analyst Michael Leiter reports.

President Vladimir Putin, who was elected after waging war against Chechen rebels in the mountains just south of Volgograd, has staked his reputation on organizing a safe Olympics.

Security experts warn that it is precisely attacks by Islamist militants whose fight rooted in this war that present Putin with his biggest security challenge now.

“Since these games were first awarded to Russia several years back, people were worried because of the long-standing conflicts,” NBC News counter-terrorism analyst Michael Leiter said after Sunday’s attack.  “And this type of mass transit is what officials are most concerned with.”

The White House issued a statement within hours of the latest blast, saying President Barack Obama has been briefed on the attacks and the United States and Russia were cooperating on anti-terrorism leading up to the Games.

An International Olympic Committee spokeswoman told Reuters on Monday that there was “no doubt that the Russian authorities will be up to the task” of providing security during the Games, which are due to start on Feb. 7.

NBC News’ F. Brinley Bruton, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. Daniel Arkin reported from New York.


This story was originally published on Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:13 AM EST

Stringer / AFP – Getty Images

Russian firefighters and security personnel inspect the damage at Volgograd‘s central station after Sunday’s blast.

By Albina Kovalyova, Producer, NBC News

At least 13 people were killed in a terror attack by a suspected female suicide bomber at a railway station in Russia Sunday, officials said – the second deadly attack in three days as the country prepares to host the Winter Olympics.

The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the explosion, at the central railway station in the city of Volgograd, was an act of terror and that a criminal investigation has been launched.

The attack, which happened at about 1 p.m. local time (4 a.m. ET), heightens concern about terrorism ahead of February’s Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

On Friday, a car bomb killed three people in the southern Russian city of Pyatigorsk, 170 miles east of Sochi. In October, another female suicide bomber was blamed for a bus explosion in Volgograd that killed five people.

The Committee said preliminary findings after Sunday’s blast showed that the suspect was female, but federal security services were still investigation.

“Today at around 1300 an unconfirmed explosive device was detonated in front of the metal detector at the entrance to the train station in Volgograd,” the Committee said on its website. “The preliminary findings show that it was activated by a female suicide bomber.”

Russian Investigative Committee Representative Vladimir Markin told state news agency Interfax that 13 were dead.

Other reports in Russian media said that as many as 18 were killed, and at least 50 injured.

Related: Female suicide bomber suspected of Russia bus blast; at least 5 dead

Nabil Mounzer / EPA

The blanket-covered body of former Finance minister Mohammad Chatah ;oes next to the wreckage of his car in downtown Beirut, Friday.

By Mustafa Kassem and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News

BEIRUT – The former Lebanese ambassador to the United States was assassinated early Friday by a bomb explosion close to the government headquarters in central Beirut that also killed at least four others.

Mohammad Chatah, who is a senior aide to former prime minister Saad Hariri, was attending a meeting of senior leaders of the March 14 political party, which is staunchly opposed to the Assad regime in neighboring Syria and is very critical of Hezbollah inside of Lebanon.

The blast, which apparently targeted Chatah’s convoy, set cars on fire and sent black smoke billowing into the sky above the recently-reconstructed upscale business and zone of Beirut, close to the Intercontinental Phoenica Hotel.

Str / AFP – Getty Images

Ex-ambassador to US and finance minister Mohammed Shatah, in this undated file photo.

Four others were killed. Chatah’s driver was among the the victims, according to Reuters, citing security sources.

A Reuters witness at the scene said Chatah’s car was “totally destroyed. It is a wreck.”

Hariri heads the main, Western-backed coalition in Lebanon which is engaged in bitter feuding with the militant Hezbollah group, which is allied to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Chatah was also a prominent economist and former finance minister. He also served at the IMF and was former vice governor of Banque di Liban.

He was one of the closest aides to Hariri’s father, Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who was killed in a truck bombing in Beirut in 2005 not far from Friday’s explosion.

Chatah posted a tweet critical of Hezbollah less than two hours before his death.

Lebanon has seen a wave of bombings over the past months as tensions rise over Syria’s civil war.

An Iranian diplomat was among at least 23 people killed in a suspected twin suicide bomb attack at the Iranian Embassy in November.

An al Qaeda-linked terror group claimed responsibility – the latest sign that Syria’s civil war is spilling over the border into Lebanon.

GlobalPost contributor Joseph Kechichian told news channel Al Jazeera that Friday’s bomb was “absolutely” related to the civil war in Syria.

Wael Hamzeh / EPA

A Lebanese man carries an injured woman at the scene of the explosion in Beirut, Friday.

“Nothing goes on here in Lebanon nowadays that if not affected by what it happening in Syria,” he said. “There are so many refugees from Syria living here. We are breathing, eating, living Syria, day in, day out.”

NBC News’ F. Brinley Bruton and Reuters contributed to this report. Alastair Jamieson reported from London.

Please check back for details on this breaking news story.

This story was originally published on Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:46 AM EST


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