NEW YORK — New York's mayor and police commissioner told reporters Thursday that the suspects in last week's deadly Boston bombings made a spontaneous plan to attack New York City -- but said it never got beyond the talking stage.
New York officials say the brothers suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, briefly planned to set off their remaining shrapnel bombs in Times Square.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke to reporters Thursday.
“He and his brother had intended to drive to New York and detonate additional explosives in Times Square. They had built them and had capacity to carry out these attacks,” Bloomberg said.
Police Commissioner Kelly said the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reportedly told investigators that he and his brother made a "spontaneous" plan to go to New York as they were riding around in a hijacked car two days after the Boston bombing. But they dropped the idea when they noticed the car was low on gas.
Within hours, the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police.
Glen Carle, a top-ranking intelligence official in the administration of President George W. Bush, said he was surprised that New York officials chose to highlight a stillborn plan. He noted that investigators believe the brothers acted alone and were not part of a larger group of terrorists.
“It sounds pretty clear that these two guys were panicking and scrambling, and I don’t really understand why one needs to have a press conference to characterize something as a grave threat to the metropolis when it doesn’t sound that way to me,” he said.
Mayor Bloomberg also noted that New York City has a huge police force, and a network of cameras in Times Square that might have prevented any attack from being carried out. But, he said, there could be no guarantees of that.
Suspects' Parents Speak
In Russia, parents of the Tsarnaev brothers said their sons did not carry out the April 15 Boston attack, which killed three people and injured more than 250 others.
Their mother accused U.S. authorities of needlessly killing Tamerlan. In a news conference in Makhachkala, both parents — Anzor Tsarnaev and his former wife Zubeidat — said their sons were framed.
While Tamerlan died in an April 19 shootout with police at age 26, his 19-year-old brother now faces a charge of using a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a possible death sentence if he is convicted.
Zubeidat Tsarnaeva angrily claimed police did not have to kill Tamerlan.
"What have you done with my son? He was alive," she said. "Why did they need to kill him? Why didn't they send him to, you know, Guantanamo or wherever? Why did they kill him? Why? Why did they have to kill him? They got him alive, right? He was in their hands."
According to reports by numerous news agencies, Tamerlan died as a result of injuries sustained in the early-morning shootout with police, during which, investigators say, he was run over by vehicle operated by his younger brother as he lay wounded.
Zubeidat said she would not accept that her sons had planted the bombs.
Anzor Tsarnaev said he plans to return to the United States in the coming days to bury Tamerlan and hopefully see Dzhokhar, now held by authorities in a Boston hospital.
U.S. officials are continuing to examine whether the Boston Marathon attack could have been prevented, as warning signs emerged that Tamerlan was turning toward radical Islamic beliefs.
Senator Lindsey Graham said he believes Boston is becoming "a case study in system failure" by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“We need to understand that bin Laden may be dead, but the war against radical Islam is very much alive," he said. "Radical Islam is on the march and we need to up our game.”
Authorities say Tamerlan was placed on a U.S. counter-terrorism list in late 2011, when the CIA asked that his name be placed on the list after it was contacted by the Russian government with regarding concerns that he had become ideologically radicalized.
Moscow also issued a similar warning to the FBI earlier in 2011. Officials say the agency launched an investigation, but eventually concluded he posed no threat.
U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns about information sharing between U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack. Authorities will brief the full U.S. Senate on the investigation into the bombing.
In January 2012, several months after he first came to the attention of U.S. federal agents, Tamerlan left the U.S. for a six-month visit to Russia.
U.S. investigators questioned the suspects' parents in the Russian republic of Dagestan to try to determine if Tamerlan had contacts with Islamic extremists.
VOA's Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report