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May 1, 2013

FBI: 3 removed backpack from Boston suspect's room

BOSTON — Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev removed a backpack containing fireworks emptied of gunpowder from his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the attack, according to charges filed today.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.

The affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of the backpack after concluding from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the bombers. A court appearance for the three is scheduled for this afternoon.

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the finish line. The suspect's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a gunfight with police several days later. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and lies in a prison hospital.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending UMass. Linda Cristello, the Boston attorney who represented them at a hearing on the immigration case this morning, confirmed earlier that they were facing separate federal charges.

All three men charged today began attending UMass with Tsarnaev at the same time in 2011, the FBI affidavit says.

Authorities allege that on the night of April 18, after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects and the three men suspected their friend was one of them, they went to Tsarnaev's dorm room. The men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of powder.

The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack from the room "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble." He also decided to remove Tsarnaev's laptop, the FBI said in the affidavit.

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