Inside the two deadly bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon sat remote-control devices from toy cars that may have been triggered by mobile telephone, according to federal law-enforcement officials and congressmen briefed on the matter.
The electronics were placed in pressure cookers along with ball bearings, nails, gun powder and other components, according to U.S. Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
These now-confirmed details of the inner workings of the ordnance show that common household items became the weapons in the April 15 bombing that claimed three lives and injured more than 260 others, the highest-profile terror attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. Lawmakers and investigators agree that, while some expertise was needed to carry out the attack, the men accused, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, picked up that knowledge mostly on their own.
“Everything that I see right now seems like they were radicalized through the Internet,” said Maryland Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Both the FBI and CIA had received information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev from a foreign government in 2011, according to a U.S. intelligence official not authorized to speak publicly. The CIA nominated Tsarnaev for a watch-list shared by various government agencies, and the FBI investigated and found nothing incriminating then about the older brother.
In Boston today, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden led a memorial service at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge for school police officer Sean Collier, slain the night of a manhunt in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev also died in a firefight with police. And Boylston Street reopened to cars and foot traffic after a weeklong blockade following the bombings.
The device that set off the bombs was described by McCaul as the type used to remotely control a toy car.
“That’s the igniter,” McCaul said in an interview. “When he turns on the device, it triggers the ignition and it blows up.”
The FBI has concluded that the bombs contained explosives from fireworks, possibly along with additional explosive material still being analyzed, according to a U.S. official who asked for anonymity because of the continuing investigation.
The level of sophistication shows the perpetrators “had some level of training,” McCaul said.
Ruppersberger said the devices were detonated by mobile phone. Federal authorities have photos of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev using one shortly before the explosions, according to the criminal complaint against him.
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