A man who identified himself as the father of two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings said on Friday he believed his sons had been framed and pleaded with police to spare his younger son who was still on the run.
"Somebody clearly framed them. I don't know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead," he said, clasping his head in despair.
"I'm scared for my boy - that they will shoot him dead too," said the thin man in a black-and-blue sweater. "They should arrest him, bring him in, alive. And the judicial system should investigate everything, who's right and who's guilty."
An aunt of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects said on Friday the older brother recently became a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day, and she doesn't believe the brothers could have been involved in Monday's attack.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev had married and had a 3-year-old daughter in the US, Maret Tsarnaeva told reporters in Toronto.
"He has a wife in Boston and from a Christian family, so you can't tie it to religion," she said.
But she said the 26-year-old Tamerlan "seemingly did not find himself yet in America, because it's not easy."
Tamerlan was killed Thursday night during a shootout with police, and a huge manhunt was under way in the Boston area for his 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar.
Tsarnaeva said she wants proof they are involved in the deadly bombing.
"We're talking about three dead people, 100-something injured, and I do not believe, I just do not believe our boys would do that ... I don't know them in the way that they could be capable of this," Tsarnaeva said.
She said her brother Anzor Tsarnaev had high expecations for his sons, especially Tamerlan.
She said her brother was desperate when he found out Tamerlan dropped out of his university. She said he always demanded more of his children and said Tamerlan was his favorite.
Tamerlan wasn't a devout practicing Muslim, "but just recently, maybe two years ago, he started praying five times a day," she said.
Tsarnaeva called both boys smart and athletic.
"Within the family, everything was perfect," she said.
Manhunt in Boston
Black Hawk helicopters and heavily armed police descended on a Boston suburb on Friday in a massive search for an ethnic Chechen suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, hours after his brother was killed by police in a late-night shootout.
The normally traffic-clogged streets of Boston were empty as the city went into virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions. Public transport was suspended, air space restricted and famous universities, including Harvard and MIT, closed after police ordered residents to remain at home.
Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and the dead suspect as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed Thursday night in the working class suburb of Watertown.
Details emerged on Friday about the brothers, including their origins in the predominantly Muslim regions of Russia's Caucasus, which have experienced two decades of violence since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The fugitive described himself on a social network as a minority from a region that includes Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
A man who said he was their uncle said the brothers came to the United States in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.
"I say what I think what's behind it - being losers," Ruslan Tsarni told reporters in suburban Washington. "Not being able to settle themselves and thereby hating everyone who did."
Tsarni said he had not spoken to the brothers since 2009. He said Monday's bombings on the finish line of the world-famous Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured 176 "put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity."
The bombing, described by President Barack Obama as "an act of terrorism," was the worst such attack on U.S. soil since the plane hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.
The FBI said the twin blasts were caused by bombs in pressure cookers and carried in backpacks that were left near the marathon finish line as thousands of spectators gathered.
Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.
The manhunt has covered 60-70% of the search area, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said Friday afternoon. "We are progressing through this neighborhood, going door-to-door, street-to-street," he said.
Two Black Hawk helicopters circled the area. Amtrak said it was suspending train service between Boston and New York indefinitely and the Boston Red Sox postponed Friday night's baseball game at historic Fenway Park.
The events elicited a response from Moscow condemning terrorism and from the Russian-installed leader of Chechnya, who criticized police in Boston for killing an ethnic Chechen and blamed the violence on his upbringing in the United States.
"They grew up and studied in the United States and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there," Ramzan Kadyrov said in comments posted online. "Any attempt to make a connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs is in vain."
The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to US government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official said on Friday.
A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.
His "World view" was listed as "Islam" and his "Personal priority" as "career and money."
He posted links to videos of fighters in Syria's civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as "Salamworld, my religion is Islam" and "There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts."
(Video Courtesy: CNN)
He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.
Video posted on NJ.com showed a woman, Alina Tsarnaeva, who described herself as a sister of the suspects.
"I'm not OK, just like anyone else is not OK," she told reporters from behind the closed door of an apartment in West New York, New Jersey.
She said the older brother "was a great person. He was a kind and loving man. To piss life away, just like he pissed others' life away ... "
She said of the younger brother, "He's a child."
House-to-house search in Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police, who raced from one site to the next. The events stunned the former mill town, which has a large Russian-speaking community.
During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to Tamerlan Tsarnaev being shot dead.
"During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody," Alben said.
The suspect died of multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The older brother was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in surveillance images released by the FBI on Thursday. The younger Tsarnaev was shown wearing a white cap in the pictures, taken shortly before Monday's explosions.
"We believe this to be a terrorist," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. "We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody."
(With inputs from AP, Reuters)