The leader of a Boston-based Ethiopian association says news that Robel Phillipos is being investigated in connection with the Marathon bombings came as a complete shock to the community.
Binyam Tamene – executive director of the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association -- said he knew Phillipos as an exemplary young man.
“Robel was born in Cambridge and was a good kid,” he said. “He was good academically, his (single) mother took care of him very well, and he was able to go to one of the best universities here in Dartmouth – the University of Massachusetts.”
Phillipos – a U.S. citizen of Ethiopian descent – is one of three friends of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Phillipos and two other 19-year-olds -- Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev -- were charged with obstruction of justice & lying to FBI investigators.
Tamene said Phillipos devoted most of his time and energy pursuing his studies. He said it’s difficult to assess what may have influenced the young man to engage in the acts alleged by investigators. The three young men are said to have thrown away a back-pack carrying explosives for fireworks and removed a lap top from Tsarnaev’s residence.
Tamene said he doesn’t believe the charges against Phillipos will cast a shadow over the Ethiopian community.
“I don’t think the community in general worries about what other people will say about Ethiopians, because we don’t have that history in the past. It’s difficult to think other communities will look at us differently,” he remarked.