Report: Bombers spared carjacking victim because ... he wasn't an American

I’m not sure whether to believe it and neither, apparently, is Pete Williams. Watch the clip below. The carjacking victim seems to have told two different stories, first that he “escaped” from the Tsarnaevs and second that they let him go because he wasn’t an American. The “escape” story smells like B.S. cooked up in the first flush of the victim’s brush with death, but it’s just as implausible that they let the guy go. They’d already bombed a marathon and murdered a cop in cold blood. They had no problem with killing, whether remotely or face to face, and if it’s true that other attacks were planned, they would have had to eliminate the carjacking victim before he could call the cops. They couldn’t possibly be so stupid as to let a crucial witness live simply because he wasn’t American. Could they?

The owner of the Mercedes no longer served any use to them. What’s more, he knew exactly who they were: The Tsarnaevs had reportedly identified themselves as the marathon bombers.

Naturally, the carjacking victim immediately called the cops, and provided enough information—including the make and license plate of his vehicle—for the bombers to be spotted within minutes. An ensuing gun battle left Tamerlan dead and Dkhokhar in hiding, soon to be caught. End of rampage.

It didn’t have to end that way. The Tsarnaev brothers were armed and still had multiple explosive devices. If no one had been expecting the Mercedes driver home that night, they might have driven his SUV for hours before a missing person report had police looking for the vehicle. By one account, the brothers told their presumably terrified passenger that they “wanted to head to New York.” Officials have said they believe the brothers planned more violence. It’s not implausible to imagine the men driving to Manhattan, about four hours away, and killing numerous more people. Or they could have quickly made their way to one of Boston’s crowded nightlife strips and gone down in a blaze of demented glory.

The NYT also has something this morning about the Tsarnaevs possibly targeting New York. Turns out they had plenty of rounds left in the chamber:

The Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, said the authorities believed that Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, had planned more attacks beyond the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and wounded more than 170. When the suspects seized a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle and held the driver hostage, they told him that they planned to head to New York, the senior United States official said Sunday…

Mr. Davis told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday: “We have reason to believe, based upon the evidence that was found at that scene — the explosions, the explosive ordnance that was unexploded and the firepower that they had — that they were going to attack other individuals.”

Along with determining that the suspects had made at least five pipe bombs, the authorities recovered four firearms that they believe the suspects used, according to a law enforcement official. The authorities found an M-4 carbine rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — on the boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night in Watertown, Mass., 10 miles west of Boston.

Watch the clip and you’ll see that the “New York” theory is also murky. Seems like the only evidence of it is that the carjacking victim thought he heard the bombers say “Manhattan” when they were speaking Russian or Chechen. Maybe they did, or maybe there’s some combination of words in one of those languages that sounds like “Manhattan.” Assuming he’s right, though, that’s another reason to think that he somehow escaped rather than that he was let go. They told the guy who they were and where they were going, and … let him live anyway? But on the other hand, the victim’s claim that they let him go because he’s not an American is coming from somewhere. He can’t be making it up whole cloth; there’s no reason to. I don’t know how to explain it except that he’s telling the truth about being let go and that the Tsarnaevs really were that stupid.

One other thing I keep wondering about. By every account published over the last four days, it’s Tamerlan who was the real fanatic among the two. He’s the one who went to Dagestan, he’s the one getting into arguments with other Muslims about speaking too well of the “kuffar,” etc. Even family members are piping up about his growing “devotion” over the last few years. The only thing I’ve read about Dzhokhar in that vein is him contacting a college professor a few years ago to ask for a reading list with which to educate himself about the war in Chechnya. Maybe that was an early sign of radicalization, or maybe not; maybe he was just curious about his roots. Point is, there’s far less known right now about the younger brother to explain why he would have become a bomber, which is why so many people are falling back on the “manipulated by older brother” theory. But how to explain this, then?

Another UMass Dartmouth student said he talked about the bombing with Tsarnaev for several minutes Tuesday while they were working out at the gym. Tsarnaev seemed normal, perhaps a little tired, Zach Bettencourt told CNN.

Bettencourt said he told Tsarnaev something about the bombing, to the effect of, “You hear about this kind of thing happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not here.”

“He was like, ‘Yeah, tragedies happen like this all the time and it’s sad,’ ” Bettencourt said, adding he had no inkling about anything suspicious with Tsarnaev, whom he described as a nice guy.

He partied on campus on Wednesday night too, remember. If the “naif led astray by sibling svengali” theory is correct, you’d expect Dzhokhar to act panicky in the days afterward. He’s not the one ideologically committed to murder, after all; Tamerlan is. Instead, you see a 19-year-old so composed in the aftermath that he’s hanging out with friends and muttering banalities about “tragedies” on the day the feds were circulating a BOLO about a man in a white cap, gray hoodie, and black jacket at the marathon. He saw his brother/svengali be taken down by the feds and tried to get away rather than surrender. In the photos at the marathon, he’s the one smiling in the pics, not Tamerlan. By all available evidence, he’s a reptilian sociopath. If his brother really was the mastermind, he got awfully lucky in the sort of brother he had.

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