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Two friends of Boston bombing suspect indicted on federal obstruction of justice charges

vk.com via Reuters

Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, right, poses with Azamat Tazhayakov, and Dias Kadyrbayev in an undated photo taken in New York.

The two friends of Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who were arrested and charged in May now face two additional charges connected to what the FBI says was their attempt to destroy evidence.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both students from Kazakhstan, were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury, the next step in bringing them to trial. 

In addition to being accused of conspiracy to obstruct justice, the count on which they were originally arrested, they are now also charged with obstructing justice and aiding and abetting.

The indictment recites the same allegations made in the earlier charges: that they want to Tsarnaev's dorm room and took his laptop computer and his backpack.  The discovered the remnants of fireworks in the backpack, and took all the possessions back to their apartment. 

Prosecutors say that after discussing what to do, the two put the backpack in a garbage bag and placed it in a dumpster. The next morning, prosecutors say, after Tsarnaev had been identified as one of the bombing suspects, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov "watched as a garbage truck came to their apartment complex and emptied the contents."

The FBI had earlier disclosed that the backpack was found in the New Bedford landfill.

Thursday's indictment adds a further bit of detail, noting that more than 30 federal agents combed the dump for two days, April 25 and 26.

The indictment pointedly does not mention the name of the other friend of Tsarnaev's arrested in May — Robel Phillipos. 

The FBI has said he was with the other two when they took the backpack from Tsarnaev's dorm room. Phillipos is scheduled to appear in federal court next week for a preliminary hearing, although his appearance has been postponed twice before, suggesting the possibility that the government is trying to get him to plead.  

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could each face up to 20 years in prison on the count of obstructing justice, plus up to five more years on the count of conspiracy if they are found guilty, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a release on Thursday. Both men were residing in New Bedford, Mass., on student visas and could face the possibility of deportation, according to the office.

They were originally charged May first in a criminal complaint.

Kadyrbayev's lawyer, Robert G. Stahl, said in a statement Thursday that while his client's indicment "was not unexpected, it was certainly disappointing."

"My young client, like all of Dzokhar's friends at U-Mass, Dartmouth, was shocked and horrified to learn that someone he knew was involved in the terrible Marathon bombing. Even though he was literally stunned and in fear, and even though he is from a country where the police are routinely distrusted, from the moment the authorities approached him he has fully cooperated," Stahl said.

Tsarnaev, 19, pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment on July 11. His older brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police in the manhunt that followed the bombings.

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured after twin explosions from homemade bombs shook the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.