Newly-arrested friend of alleged Boston bomber was in U.S. illegally

Azamat Tazhayakov seen in undated photo

WASHINGTONOne of three college students arrested Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombings case was allowed to return to the United States from Kazakhstan in January despite not having a valid student visa, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

Authorities charged the student - a friend and classmate of one of the men accused of setting off the pair of deadly explosions April 15 - with helping to remove a laptop and backpack from the suspect's dormitory room after the attacks and before the FBI searched it.

The disclosure was another instance of possible lapses by the federal government in the months before the bombings. The Obama administration earlier this week announced an internal review of how U.S. intelligence agencies shared sensitive information and whether the government could have prevented the attack. Republicans in Congress have promised oversight hearings starting next week.

Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested three college friends of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, including Azamat Tazhayakov, a friend and classmate of Tsarnaev's at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Tazhayakov left the U.S. in December and returned Jan. 20. But in early January, his student visa status was terminated because he was academically dismissed from the university, the law enforcement official told the AP.

The official said information about Tazhayakov's status was in the Homeland Security Department's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, called SEVIS, when Tazhayakov arrived in New York in January.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss details of Tazhayakov's immigration history.

DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said that when Tazhayakov returned on Jan. 20, Customs and Border Protection officials had not been notified that he was no longer a student.

"DHS has recently reformed the student visa system to ensure that CBP is provided with real-time updates on all relevant student visa information," Boogaard said. "At the time of re-entry there was no derogatory information that suggested this individual posed a national security or public safety threat."

Tazhayakov and another student from Kazakhstan, Dias Kadyrbayev, were detained last month on immigration charges. They were arrested on federal criminal charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Robel Phillipos, 19, was also arrested and charged with willfully making materially false statements to federal law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation.

This undated photo added on April 18, 2013 to the VK page of Dias Kadyrbayev shows, from left, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, from Kazakhstan, with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Times Square in New York. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, two college buddies of Tsarnaev, were jailed by immigration authorities the day after Tsarnaev's capture. They are not suspects, but are being held for violating their student visas by not regularly attending classes, Kadyrbayev?s lawyer, Robert Stahl said. They are being detained at a county jail in Boston.
AP/VK

Questions about Tazhayakov's immigration status came up Wednesday during an immigration hearing when a judge questioned how he was able to return to the U.S. in January. A lawyer for Tazhayakov said he had re-enrolled in the university with a different major after returning to the country.

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