By David Crary and Denise Lavoie Associated Press
BOSTON — The Boston area held funerals for two more of its dead Tuesday — an 8-year-old boy and a police officer — as evidence mounted that the older Tsarnaev brother had embraced a radical, anti-American strain of Islam and was the driving force behind the Boston Marathon bombing.
Younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s condition was upgraded from serious to fair as investigators continued building their case against the 19-year-old college student. He could face the death penalty after being charged Monday with joining forces with his brother, now dead, in setting off the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs that killed three people.
In Washington, Senate Intelligence Committee member Richard Burr, R-N.C., said after his panel was briefed by federal law enforcement officials that there is “no question” that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was “the dominant force” behind the attacks, and that the brothers had apparently been radicalized by material on the Internet rather than by contact with militant groups overseas.
Martin Richard, a schoolboy from Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood who was the youngest of those killed in the April 15 blasts at the marathon finish line, was laid to rest after a family-only funeral Mass.
A funeral also was held for Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26, who authorities said was shot to death by the Tsarnaev brothers April 18. A memorial service for Collier was scheduled for today at MIT, with Vice President Joe Biden expected to attend.
More than 260 people were injured by the bomb blasts. About 50 were still hospitalized.
Authorities believe neither brother had links to terror groups. However, two U.S. officials said Tuesday that Tamerlan Tsarnaev — who died last week in a gunbattle — frequently looked at extremist websites, including Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate. The magazine has endorsed lone-wolf terror attacks.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
On Capitol Hill, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were briefed by the FBI and other law enforcement officials at a closed-door session Tuesday evening.
Afterward, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., described the two brothers as “a couple of individuals who become radicalized using Internet sources.”
“So we need to be prepared for Boston-type attacks, not just 9/11-style attacks,” Rubio said, referring to lone-wolf terrorists as opposed to well-organized teams from established terror networks.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said law enforcement officials have gotten “minimal” information from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and are still looking into whether the brothers had training or coaching from a foreign group.
The brothers’ parents live in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim province in Russia’s Caucasus, where Islamic militants have waged an insurgency against Russian security forces for years.
Family members reached in the U.S. and abroad by The Associated Press said Tamerlan was steered toward a strict strain of Islam under the influence of a Muslim convert known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha.
After befriending Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing, stopped studying music and began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to family members, who said he turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind 9/11.
Somehow, he just took his brain,” said Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md., who recalled conversations with Tamerlan’s worried father about Misha’s influence.
“You could always hear his younger brother and sisters say, ‘Tamerlan said this,’ and ‘Tamerlan said that.’ Dzhokhar loved him. He would do whatever Tamerlan would say,” recalled Elmirza Khozhugov, the ex-husband of Tamerlan’s sister. He spoke by telephone from his home in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Hoping to learn more about the motives, U.S. investigators traveled to southern Russia on Tuesday to speak to the parents of the two suspects, a U.S. Embassy official said.
A lawyer for the family, Zaurbek Sadakhanov, said the parents had just seen pictures of the mutilated body of their elder son and were not up to speaking with anyone.