Updated March 29 at 6:27pm
homeland security

Boston bombing suspect gains 1,500 defenders in Web campaign


MOSCOW - The surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect gained more than 1,500 supporters in a campaign proclaiming his innocence on VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social network.

A page defending 19-year Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had 1,508 “likes” from VKontakte users and 2,880 members by 2:43 p.m. Moscow time after being created early yesterday, according to data posted on the website. The main page asks people to “like or repost if you believe Dzhokhar is innocent.”

The campaign features photos of the naturalized U.S. citizen and ethnic Chechen with captions in English and Russian, one asking: “Who Framed Djohar?” It also showed a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s head superimposed on a runner’s body as a bomb explodes in the background.

Tsarnaev was critically wounded, and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, was killed, in a shootout with police four days after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the April 15 marathon. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 200. The younger Tsarnaev is charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, according to a filing in Boston federal court.

Tsarnaev told investigators that he and his brother acted alone in carrying out the bombings, motivated by extremist Islam, according to a U.S. official briefed on the matter. He communicated by nodding his head and occasionally writing because a gunshot wound to his neck prevents him from speaking, the official said.

A group of U.S. investigators are in Dagestan to interview the parents, according to a U.S. embassy official in Moscow, who asked not to be identified in line with State Department policy. Tamerlan spent six months last year in the southern Russian region on the Caspian Sea.

Dagestan borders Chechnya, another Russian region in the North Caucasus that has been riven by Islamic separatist movements.


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