President Obama spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday, as a massive manhunt was underway for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chechen ethnicity.
Putin “expressed his condolences on behalf of the Russian people for the tragic loss of life” in Monday’s marathon bombing, according to the White House press office. Dual explosions along the race’s finish line killed three and wounded more than 170 others. Obama reportedly thanked Putin and “praised the close cooperation” between the two counties on counter terrorism efforts in the wake of the attack.
While no motive is known for the Boston attack, Chechnya has experienced a violent past with Putin’s Russia. Struggles for independence in the last decade spurred operational and ideological ties with Islamic extremist groups and their anti-U.S. agenda. Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a firefight with police overnight, are of Chechen descent, but travel documents obtained by NBC News show Tamerlan was born in the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. According to NBC News, he became a legal permanent resident in 2007. The family migrated to the United States roughly a decade ago.
As federal agents close in on the living 19-year-old suspect, President Obama continues to be briefed by his national security team.
According to a White House official, the president was last briefed at 4 p.m. EST Friday in the Oval Office by White House by Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco, after which he called Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
“The president said that the entire country is behind the people of Boston as well as Massachusetts, and that the full force of the federal government will continue to be made available until those responsible are brought to justice,” according to the official.
Monaco also briefed the president overnight.
At 9:45 Friday morning, the president assembled his senior aides including Monaco, Vice President Biden, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Eric Holder, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon in the White House Situation Room. That meeting lasted about an hour. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan joined by videoconference.
Roughly an hour later, Kerry, Brennan, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived at the White House for a previously scheduled meeting.