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Three More Arrested in Bombing Case; Muslim Cabbie Assaulted

Aired May 1, 2013 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Looking at the Facebook page, we can tell you that he lists his hometown as Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. And in terms of what he likes, he says that, in fact, his personal priority is improving the world.

So that's what we know about this young man. He has been on the radar from the very beginning, even before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured. They do believe there's a possibility that he was actually speaking to his friend while he was on the run. So that clearly would be something that would be listed in the charges when we hear what those charges will be. He is now in the custody of FBI and ICE -- Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm sure we'll be getting more details in the next few hours on the specific charges that we have there. Was he in fact though -- do we know for sure he was an engineering student? And did he have any connection at all with MIT? Or did he just make that up?

FEYERICK: We've reached out to MIT to find out specifically if he did have any sort of connection to the school, but so far we've been unsuccessful at reaching anybody in the registration department. So we're -- the registrar's office. I should say. We're still reaching out. Again, it was the fact he listed that on his Facebook page that really gave a sort of urgency to get him in for questioning.

Remember, these guys have been in for questioning for many, many days following the capture of the Tsarnaev brothers -- or the death of one and capture of the other. They've been on the radar for a long time, but now clearly federal agents have enough to charge them with in connection with this.

Also, the only thing I want to mention as well with respect to this young man and that is, you know, University of Massachusetts initially have said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had returned to the campus, that he went back to his dorm room. And the reason they believe that is because his swipe card was used numerous times. But the question is, was he really there? Or was somebody else using that swipe card? You have to ask yourself the question, Wolf, you know, if he did return to the campus, then why didn't he himself get rid of that computer and the other fireworks allegedly in that dorm room? A big question still unanswered -- Wolf?

BLITZER: An obvious answer to that last question would be, that was before the FBI released his picture and the picture of his older brother. So maybe they were under the assumption they got away, nobody's going to find out who they were. They were pretty confident. Apparently, he was partying on the campus on that Wednesday. And then, of course, they released the picture at 5:15 or so on the following day, that Thursday. So that might be the answer why they were pretty cocky about what was going on, all of these things are being investigated obviously right now. But the latest information, the latest details are potentially very, very significant.

Deborah Feyerick working her sources. Thanks very much.

We're working our sources as well. I know we're also checking to see if we're getting some more information on these two guys from Kazakhstan, these two guys who have been arrested, these two students. One of them says he's from the former capital of Almaty in Kazakhstan. CNN has our worldwide news gathering capabilities. We're checking out what's going on in Kazakhstan even as we speak right now.

Our special coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to welcome back our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We're following important breaking news in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Police in Boston now say three more suspects are in the custody of the FBI. At least two of them are students of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. They were classmates of the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The two were from Kazakhstan. And they're seen in this picture taken at Times Square in New York City with the 19-year-old Dzhokhar last year. The third suspect we're told is a U.S. citizen whose identity we have not yet confirmed. Police in Boston say all three are in the custody, as I said, of the FBI. And we're hearing from law enforcement sources that they will face charges of making false statements to investigators, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Let's get some perspective now from CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes. He's a former FBI assistant director.

Give us a sense, Tom, of the significance of this break in this investigation and these three arrests.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR & CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, it shows that the brothers probably got help from several of their friends after the fact, is what it shows. Obviously it leads to suspicion that they may have helped them before or assisted with the entire plot of the bombing. We don't know that yet. The authorities may know that, but have not flushed all the evidence out that they want to in that. So in this case they've got plenty of evidence that after the fact they helped the brothers and that they gave false statements to the FBI when they were interviewed, which in official investigation you don't have to talk, but if you do it has to be the truth. You can't lie. And apparently that's the basis of one of the charges. And then the fact that they may have done it together would indicate conspiracy to obstruct justice or make false statements. BLITZER: Those are very serious charges indeed. Do we know, Tom -- and I know you're well-sourced. Do we know that massive search that we saw of federal authorities, local officials, going through that landfill looking for evidence, if you will, did they actually come up with anything? Did they find anything, or was it a waste of time?

FUENTES: No, I don't think it was a waste of time. But the way they worded the results of that search were that they were looking for a laptop and other material and didn't find the laptop. So that tells you that possibly they found other material there that could be linked to the brothers either to the explosive devices or other items that may have come from that apartment. So, you know, the statements that were made officially after that search were kind of strictly worded, that there could have been items found there that we're not told about, that were not named at the time.

BLITZER: If, in fact, these three suspects or one of them, two of them, the ones who are arrested today, if before all of us knew the names of the two Tsarnaev brothers before that became public information, if there's evidence that they started deleting pictures of themselves together with Dzhokhar, for example, in the middle of the night between the 18th and the 19th, what would that say to you about this investigation?

FUENTES: Well, certainly would be an indicator that they have some reason to be worried about who's going to look at their Facebook pages and maybe report that to the authorities. But I think in the modern era here, you know, the standard procedure in these kind of investigations are to locate every e-mail you can find from the subjects, every cell phone call, every financial transaction, credit card records.

Now we have the next level of investigation in the last few years which includes social media. And I think that in many cases it helps the authorities put together a picture of who they were in contact with, who their friends are literally, and can enable the authorities to go back in time and see what was the kind of communications that they were putting out to describe themselves or the kinds of photos that they were using or other information to indicate their level of relationships with other people.

And I might add in this case that the investigation going back to the beginning with the suspicion on the brothers from Kazakhstan, the FBI does have an office in Kazakhstan. So it would also involve trying to get the assistance of the authorities in Kazakhstan of what they know about these two individuals, the two students that were here.

BLITZER: Kazakhstan being a former republic of the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet Union broke up, back at the end of 1991, Kazakhstan became an independent country.

And I've been to Almaty. I've been to Kazakhstan. What's the nature of the cooperation on intelligence law enforcement? You used to be in charge of the FBI, working with a lot of these foreign countries. What's the nature of the relationship between the Kazakhstan authorities and the FBI? FUENTES: Well, I think that it's a pretty positive relationship because of having the office there -- I'm sorry -- in forming the relationships. But there hasn't always been a lot of interaction where we had to worry about people coming to the U.S. from that country and doing something. So here you have a couple students that come here. We don't know if there's an indication yet that they came here to do bad things. We think they came here to be students and have a career or get the education that they wanted, and somewhere along the line, you know, hooked up with the brothers -- the Tsarnaev brothers, and, you know, led into this possible helping them after the fact.

I think what also emerges is that the brothers had a charismatic hold over so many people that they encountered, and so many people trying to protect them. You had the one friend of theirs interviewed the day of the arrest saying, yes, I saw the FBI photographs last night on the media and on the Internet. And, yes, I recognized especially the younger brother. And when asked, did you notify the authorities, no, I didn't want to throw them under the bus. Well, what kind of loyalty is that? We have people at that point have been identified as murders, terrorists, and friends saying I don't want to throw them under the bus. So how do they get these people -- or any people to be so loyal to them just based on friendship or association in school or in the dormitory or wherever those relationships were formed?

BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, we're going to continue this investigation, continue our conversation. Standby.

We're following the breaking news out of Boston. Three arrests including two students from Kazakhstan, also, a U.S. citizen. There you see those two students from Kazakhstan last year at Times Square with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston bombing attack.

We'll take a quick break. More of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. We're following the latest developments out of Boston. Three arrests today. The FBI now has three individuals under arrest. They will be formally charged we're told later today in a federal courthouse in Boston. Two of them students from Kazakhstan. You see them right there together with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They visited Times Square last year. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are students from Kazakhstan at University of Massachusetts, in Dartmouth campus. They've been picked up together with a U.S. citizen, whose identity we have not yet confirmed. We're watching what's going on closely.

Formally, they will be charged with making false statements to federal authorities as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice. The suggestion being that they got a phone call -- this is the suggestion -- from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asking them to remove some items from his room, which they did. And it's unclear, the timeline. Was this done -- did they know that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was being searched for as a result of the FBI investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing?

These are very, very serious charges. We anticipate that the Justice Department will formally release an affidavit. It will probably be out there very soon with a tick tock, a timeline of what exactly happened, why they want these three individuals, two students from Kazakhstan plus a U.S. citizen, to be arrested.

These are live pictures we're getting in from our affiliate, WHDH, in Boston. This is the federal courthouse there. We anticipate these three individuals will be showing up fairly soon. Much more on that coming up. We're continuing the breaking news.

Also, a cab driver says he was assaulted by a passenger who accused him of being a terrorist just because he's Muslim. Get this. The same cabbie is a U.S. Army Reservist. We'll hear his story and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We just learned these three individuals arrested by the FBI will have a court appearance today, 3:30 p.m., at the federal courthouse in Boston. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev at Dartmouth campus, from Kazakhstan, and a third individual arrested, a U.S. citizen, of whom we have not yet identified, but pretty soon all of us will know the identity of the third person as well. Conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements to federal authorities, these are the two charges we have heard about so far. We'll get more information, get back to you on that. Once again, 3:30 p.m. eastern, they will be showing up at the federal courthouse in Boston.

There is another story I want to get to this hour. It involves a taxi driver right here in the Washington, D.C. area who says he was physically attacked by a customer who looped him in with the Boston Marathon bombers. Mohamed Salim is a Muslim, also a United States Army Reservist who served in the war in Iraq. He says a man got in his cab last Friday, accused him of being a terrorist, threatened to kill him, then broke his jaw.

Salim recorded some of it on his cell phone video camera, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED DAHLBURG, ATTACKED MOHAMED SALIM: Will you denounce it? Will you say that that was bad? No, you won't.

MOHAMED SALIM, ATTACKED IN HIS CAB: Sir, whatever you say, it's recorded.

DAHLBURG: I don't give a flying (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

SALIM: I'm going to call 911 right now.

DAHLBURG: Do you think it was right for the terrorists --

SALIM: I'm going to call you right now.

DAHLBURG: -- to fly planes into the United States --

SALIM: I'm going to call you to the police.

DAHLBURG: I don't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

SALIM: OK. Whatever you're saying is recorded and -- now you're punching me? You're punching me?

DAHLBURG: Do you think it was proper for the United States --

SALIM: You, you -- now you're punching me, right? You're punching me, right? Why are you punching me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now is Mohamed Salim and his attorney, Gadeir Abbas.

Thank to both of you for coming in.

Mohamed, how are you doing, how badly were you hurt in this exchange?

SALIM: I really get bad hurt. I got a fracture in my jaw, head injury. And also my right ear, really get hurt. So that was really scary. But thank god I'm alive.

BLITZER: Thank god you're alive.

(CROSSTALK)

ABBAS GADEIR, ATTORNEY FOR MOHAMED SALIM: What happened was --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Go ahead -- Gadeir, go ahead, pick up the story.

GADEIR: Yes, and the video cuts off after he gets hit once. But what the video doesn't show is when Mohamed goes to call 911, actually the assailant re-enters the vehicle, casts additional aspersions on all billion-plus Muslims of the world, says that Mohamed is cousins to the Boston bomber, and hits him a couple more times. And this followed several minutes of really some of the ugliest anti-Muslim comments that one can imagine.

Mohamed at one point asked Mr. Dahlberg whether or not he had prejudice, and Mr. Dalhberg's response was yes, in fact, he was, and, indeed, Muslim, as a general matter, are responsible for acts of violence that the extreme few commit.

And what Mohamed's situation really highlights is that -- Mohamed is an Army Reservist who served in Iraq and defended his country. And what his incident highlights is that the acts of a few cannot be generalized to over a billion practicing Muslims in the world. And maybe Mr. Dahlberg would have revised the statements had he known the service that Mr. Salim provided. But what we see in documented video is an example of anti-Muslim prejudice that violates the law and has no place in our country.

BLITZER: We did get a statement from the individual, the lawyer for the individual, who was involved in this altercation with Mohamed. "Client became rather emotional as the discussion turned to jihad and 9/11, and especially heated on the subject of jihadists who want to harm him."

Mohamed, what would you say to this individual now if he's watching?

SALIM: If he's watching, I'm really saying upon his face, sir, I'm not a terrorist, I'm a U.S. citizen, I'm U.S. Army Reserve. I served the country and I sacrificed my life. You don't know me. You don't know my background. Also I ask you, do you know me? And you say, I don't give a "F." That's what you respond. So I sacrifice for this country. I know about my life. And, I, myself, I was fighting terrorists and I'm against violence. I'm not terrorist. I'm not jihadist. I'm American like you. A lot of Muslimists who serve the country -- and I know a lot of Muslims -- more than 200, 300 Muslims who serve the country, and the war on terrorism, war on Iraq. So, sir, you know, individuals are responsible. There are 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. Again, so you have to apologize to me and 1.5 billion Muslims.

BLITZER: Mohamed, thanks for your service to the United States.

Gadeir, thanks for coming in as well.

We'll continue to pursue this story. We appreciate it very much.

That's it for me this hour. I'll be back, 5:00 p.m. eastern, special edition of "The Situation Room." We're watching the breaking news out of Boston, three arrests.

Brooke Baldwin will have much more of our breaking news coverage from Boston right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)