President Obama praises the work of law enforcement at a news conference… (Martin H. Simon / Pool Photo )
WASHINGTON – President Obama announced the end of “an important chapter” late Friday night in the Boston Marathon bombing with the arrest of a fugitive suspect.
But Obama said the search is just beginning to find out why the attack was launched and who may have been involved. “The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers,” he said, explicitly classifying the alleged perpetrators of the crime as “terrorists.”
Whatever “hateful agenda” propelled the attackers, Obama said, it “cannot prevail.”
“They have already failed,” he said, because Americans refused to be terrified and intimidated.
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As the hunt for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev consumed the FBI and Massachusetts law enforcement agencies on Friday, the Obama administration was also conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the plot and its architects.
The inquiry reached the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan, where members of the Tsarnaev family lived before immigrating to the U.S. In a phone call late in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured Obama personally that his government would help U.S. officials.
Investigators were also working domestic sources for information on the Tsarnaevs, at one point leading police to question three college-age people in New Bedford, Mass.
After the death of the older Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in a confrontation with police late Thursday, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped and hid in a boat in a backyard. Millions watched on television as police spent Friday scouring the neighborhood for him.
One of those viewers was Obama. Late in the day, he went to the White House residence for dinner and watched the police pursuit draw to a close on television. When it seemed the police were close to an arrest, Obama walked back to the Oval Office. He learned from FBI Director Robert Mueller that the suspect was taken alive.
The younger Tsarnaev’s arrest offers U.S. officials hope of finding out details of the planning.
When he spoke to mourners at an interfaith service in Boston on Thursday, Obama had directly addressed the perpetrators, saying “Yes, we will find you.”
But in speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room Friday night, Obama urged Americans to let investigators do their work before jumping to conclusions about who is to blame for the attacks that killed three people at the race and a police officer who later crossed paths with the suspects.
“When a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it’s important that we do this right,” Obama said. “That’s why we take care not to rush to judgment, not about the motivations of these individuals, certainly not about entire groups of people.”