Night fell on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a prestigious university center located on the banks of the Charles River, close to Boston. It is 10:15 p.m. this Thursday, and Djokhar Tsarnaïev enters a 7/11 store, a small convenience store open 24 hours a day for campus needs. Despite his adolescent looks, his gray sweater and his hood on his head, this young man of 19 years with wavy black hair and dark eyes is not a student who came to refuel in anticipation of a long evening of work, in full revision of the spring exams.
Since 5.30 p.m., he has been identified as one of two suspects actively sought by the FBI in the Boston terrorist attacks. During an extraordinary press conference, the American counterintelligence agent in charge of the investigation, Richard DesLauriers, released photos and videos showing him in the company of his older brother Tamerlan, caps screwed on his head, harnessed in backpacks and walking in the crowd, just before the attacks. The 26-year-old elder is apparently the “brain” of this sad duo, wearing black caps on Monday’s photos. He was identified as “suspect number 1” by the FBI. Djokhar, who wears a white cap on the day of the marathon, is “suspect number 2” and the FBI said he had a photo of him putting his backpack on the side of the road where the bombs will explode for a few minutes later.
“They are trying to kill me”
The two brothers, whose names will not be revealed until Friday morning, spent the previous three days going about their business as if nothing had happened, Djokhar even going to the campus of his university, UMassDartmouth, and to the gymnasium for exercise, so many decisions which strike by their extraordinary naivety and which seem to indicate that the two brothers acted alone, in “solitary wolves”, according to the American formula devoted.
But this Thursday, on the MIT campus, while their photos are going around the media of the world, understanding, very late, that the vice of the FBI will close on them. Their attempted escape leads them inside 7/11 of Kendall Square, very close to where they live in Cambridge. Did they try to buy something before being identified by the seller? The fog still hangs over this first episode of a crazy night that will turn into a surreal manhunt, which continued on Friday afternoon. What we do know is that the two brothers are going to attempt a burglary of the store, which will degenerate into an altercation with the police officer Sean Collier, on patrol in the sector.
At 10:20 a.m., a science student in MIT building 76 heard gunshots, according to the campus student newspaper. He calls the police emergency at 911. When another police officer arrives at the scene, he discovers Sean Collier, who has been shot several times in the head, at the crossroads of Vassar and Main streets. He was 26 years old.
The two suspects fled in his vehicle. While the alert is given and an armada of police forces converges on the crime scene to try to catch them, Tamerlan and Djokhar intercept a Mercedes SUV and continue their mad breakaway. For thirty minutes, they keep the driver hostage before releasing him on Memorial Drive, near a gas station. Seated behind his counter, the seller Tarik Ahmed sees the miraculous, livid and frightened tumble down, according to a story reported by the New York Daily News. “Call the police, call the police!” he shouts at her. These people are trying to kill me. ” Ahmed lets him call. “He was shaking, he was very scared.”
Meanwhile, the two suspected terrorists head west along the Charles River towards Watertown, a quiet town of 32,000 people with individual homes and gardens, 12 kilometers from Boston. The police are chasing them. In a few minutes, the small town will turn into a war zone.
Around 12:45 am, an extremely violent exchange of gunfire broke out at the crossroads of Laurel and Dexter streets. The shots are apparently very heavy. An amateur film, which was broadcast on YouTube, captured this surreal shooting. You don’t see much in a dark night like an oven, apart from the yellow headlights and blue beacons of police cars. But the crackling of the balls is impressive.
The suspects allegedly threw explosive grenades from their car, seriously injuring a police officer. The suspect number 1, Tamerlan Tsarnaïev, falls in his turn. He was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds later that night. On the other hand, his younger brother Djokhar escapes with his car, which he ends up abandoning on a street in Watertown.
Dawn is pointing to an amazed America, which has been able to follow live events, all American channels having worked live, all night at the scene of the battle. At 4.30 a.m., a police officer held a press conference to call on the population to seal their homes and not to open the doors under any circumstances, except of course in the event of a visit by the police.
These converged by hundreds towards Watertown, deploying everywhere for a meticulous grid. In the streets, the shocked residents can see at each crossroads the men of the special forces of the Boston and Massachusetts police, dressed in black, harnessed with bullet-proof vests, helmets and protected to the chin.
Hundreds of other police officers and the National Guard are present with various uniforms. They deploy, submachine gun in hand, knocking on doors, inspecting the houses. Curious residents stick their heads out of the windows.
“They are barbarians”
“Here is the view from my house, it’s crazy,” wrote Shawan England, a resident who tweeted an image of her garden, where we can see two men in stashed trellises, guns in the shoulder. The entire Boston area is like a curfew. Transportation has been stopped, schools closed, and most businesses have decided to stop their activity for the day. It looks like an American television series, except that it is reality. “It is very unsettling to see Boston in this light. It’s such a friendly place, ”says Evan Diamond, a former Boston resident.
At the White House, the president was briefed all night and morning in the situation room by his counter-terrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, and the heads of all the agencies involved. “All this week, we have been in direct confrontation with evil,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator.
Information is beginning to emerge on the past of the two brothers, from the small Caucasian republic of Chechnya. What is striking in the information that emerges is that they spent a large part of their lives, children, in America, where they arrived in 2002, fleeing the horror of war between Chechen separatists and the Russian army. They studied at an American school before joining a local college.
In the community of Chechen refugees from Europe and America, usually very integrated, there is dismay. The friends of Djokhar’s university and school do not believe their ears either, speaking of him as a nice owl, always smiling and good comrade. “I am deeply shocked, devastated,” says Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the two brothers, from the small town of Gaithersburg in Maryland, where he learned the news. “I am without words. They don’t deserve to have lived, they are barbarians, I am ashamed, they are my brother’s sons, I have nothing to do with these bastards “, he says still horrified, calling them” losers “,” Unable to find their place in society and hating everyone for it “.
In Dagestan, their father Anzor says that he does not believe in their responsibility. “They were trapped by the special services,” he says, in complete denial.
For long hours again this Friday, the fugitive was not found. “You can leave your home, but remain very vigilant”, announced the police during a press briefing, a little before seven o’clock.
The sequel looks like a thriller scenario: a few minutes later, a resident decides to go out to cool off in his garden at the back of his house, at 67 rue Franklin. As he walks towards his boat, a “toy” he adores, jokingly confides in one of his neighbors on twitter, he discovers traces of blood on the white cover that covers him. Not the kind of fearful, our man decides to lift the cover and sees the fleeing teenager wanted by thousands of police, crouching deep and injured. He rushes into his house to call the police, who run in large battalions to surround the boat. Detail that says a lot about the technological means of the US special forces, a helicopter that spins above the garden and detects the heat of a body with an infrared camera, confirming the words of the owner of the boat.
A heavy shooting begins, which seems endless on amateur videos posted by neighbors on the Internet. At 8.45 a.m., the tragic and insane team of Dzokhar Tsarnaev ends. Seriously injured, police say, he is taken into custody at Beth Israel Hospital, where his brother died the day before his injuries and where he will be interrogated. “We have it,” tweeted Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. In the streets of the city, it is the explosion of joy. People go out into the street and applaud the armored vehicles and the Swat police patrols, which withdraw. Some people hit the bodies to express their gratitude, shouting “USA”. It is true that the investigation and the hunt were carried out with mastery and in record time – barely 4 days – by the FBI, in collaboration with the Boston police and many other agencies.
At 10 a.m., the president appeared before the cameras at the White House. He expresses his “deep gratitude” to the police. “The hate agenda of the two terrorists has failed because the Americans refuse to allow themselves to be terrorized,” says Barack Obama, who calls on the country to remain faithful to “the unity and diversity that make it strong,” so to say that recent events should not lead to the ostracization of Muslims. He also points out that many questions remain unanswered and that the investigation must continue to understand “why” two young people who grew up in the United States were able to turn against their adopted country.