Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, and Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, were students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth along with bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was arrested last month and charged in the attack.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were charged Wednesday in Massachusetts federal court with conspiracy to obstruct justice for knowingly "destroying, concealing, and covering up objects" belonging to Tsarnaev, namely a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop computer. A third man, Robel Phillipos, was also arrested Wednesday and charged with making false statements in a terrorism investigation. Court documents described all three men as friends of Tsarnaev's. There were no obvious social media signs of Phillipos on Wednesday afternoon.
Two of the young men, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, lived at an off-campus apartment in New Bedford, Mass., that investigators raided on April 19, four days after the bombing. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were taken into custody by investigators, questioned, and then released along with another person who has not been named. It is unclear whether or not Phillipos was the third person questioned after the raid. According to the Standard-Times newspaper in New Bedford, investigators believe Tsarnaev was in the apartment "often and possibly lived there for a time." Kadyrbayev did not respond to an email from TPM sent April 19.
On April 20, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were detained for allegedly violating their student visas by not attending classes. According to the Boston Globe, UMass Dartmouth officials confirmed Tazhayakov was a student at the school and that Kadyrbayev had been "expelled from the school because of low grades." UMass Dartmouth has not responded to multiple requests for comment from TPM.
On Friday, Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, told the Associated Press the two men were classmates of Tsarnaev's and that they had cooperated fully during multiple interviews by FBI agents. Stahl also denied they had anything to do with the marathon bombing and that they thought Tsarnaev "seemed to be a typical young college student." Stahl told Yahoo News the men planned to plead not guilty on Wednesday afternoon. As of this writing, Stahl has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Long before the bombing, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov both appeared to have set up profiles on VKontakte, a Russian-language social networking site. Each profile listed the other as a friend. TPM has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the profiles. However, one of the profiles, apparently belonging to Kadyrbayev, was reviewed four days after the bombing, only a short time after the men were originally detained by investigators. The other, which appears to be Tazhayakov's, was reviewed Wednesday.
Kadyrbayev's profile included his name and many photos. It identified him as a student of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (A spokeswoman for MIT told TPM there is no one with Kadyrbaev's name currently registered at the school and "there has never been a registered student with that name.") The profile also said his hometown was Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Many of the 108 posts on the site included photos and videos of BMW cars. According to the Standard-Times newspaper, Kadyrbayev's father was quoted by a news site in Kazakhstan saying his son owned a BMW that sported a souvenir plate reading "TERRORISTA #1." There were also multiple photos showing Kadyrbayev with a man who appears to be Tsarnaev, including one where the man is wearing a t-shirt from Tsarnaev's high school wrestling team.
Other pictures posted in April 2012 showed Kadyrbaev with friends in New York City. One showed him standing with Tsarnaev and Tazhayakov in Times Square. CNN reported on Wednesday that Stahl confirmed to the network his clients were the ones in that photo along with Tsarnaev.
Tazhayakov's apparent profile on VKontakte included his name and some photos. In one photo, dated April 2012, he is shown at the Statue of Liberty in New York City. The profile is headlined by a song lyric from Green Day, "Wake me up when September ends." It is filled with posts about soccer and football, as well as songs from American pop artists. The most recent post on the site on April 18 was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' song "Can Not Hold Us."
Tsarnaev himself also appeared to maintain a profile on the social networking site, and was connected with Kadyrbayev as friends. A photo posted on Kadyrbayev's account (shown above) was tagged with his name and Tsarnaev's, and it was also shared on Tsarnaev's page.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov also both appeared to maintain Facebook profiles, which also have not been verified but shared many of the same characteristics with the VKontakte profiles, including that the listed each other as friends. A profile under Kadyrbayev's name included a photo dated March 2012 that appeared to show him at Manhattan's Le Souk nightclub. One of the photos posted on the Facebook profile in March 2012 was also posted on the VKontakte page. A profile under Tazhayakov's name identified him as a student at UMass Dartmouth and lists his hometown as Atyrau, Kazakhstan.
View photos from the VKontakte pages below.
Tazhayakov, Kadyrbaev, and Tsarnaev in Times Square, VK.com
Tsarnaev and Kadyrbaev, VK.com
Tazhayakov at the Statue of Liberty, VK.com