Washington: Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the US and could face the death penalty if convicted, the Attorney General`s office said today.
The charges came as the White House said today that Tsarnaev is not an `enemy combatant` and as a US citizen cannot be tried under military laws.
"He is not an enemy combatant. We will prosecute him under the existing law. When it comes to US citizens it is against the law to try them under military conditions," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.
"The whole national security team supports this decision," Carney said responding to questions on the decision of the Obama Administration not to treat the Boston bombing suspect as an enemy combatant, which has been criticised by top Republican lawmakers.
Tsarnaev, who was arrested after days of a massive manhunt on Friday, had his initial court appearance today from his hospital room, where he is reported to be in serious condition due to throat injuries.
In a criminal complaint unsealed today in US District Court in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev is charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death.
He has also been charged with another count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
The statutory charges authorise a penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life for any term of years.
Three people died and more than 200 were injured when two bombs exploded in quick succession at the Boston Marathon, last week.
The police has identified Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old elder brother Tamerlan, as the suspects.
Tamerlan, said to be the mastermind, died in a police gunfight on Thursday.
"Although our investigation is ongoing, today`s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country," US Attorney General Eric Holder said.
"Finding the alleged perpetrators of this savage act of terrorism four days after the attack on the City of Boston was a herculean effort and shows the true cooperation and dedication of the law enforcement community," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
"We were relentless in our pursuit of the suspects. The arrest of Tsarnaev and today`s charges should send a clear message to those who look to do us harm, the entire law enforcement community will go after you, find you and bring you to justice," he said.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys William Weinreb and Indian-American Aloke Chakravarty, from the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit of the US Attorney`s Office for the District of Massachusetts, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department`s National Security Division.
More than 30 federal, state and local agencies are involved in this.
"The impact of these crimes has been far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice," said Carmen Ortiz, US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
"We hope that this prosecution will bring some small measure of comfort, both to the public at large and to the victims and their families that justice will be served," she added.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Dzhokhar, the explosives used by the two Chechen brothers were low-grade and were packed in pressure cookers.
"Both pressure cookers were of same brand. The pressure cookers also contained metallic ball bearings and nails. Many of the BBs were contained within an adhesive material. The explosive contained green-coloured hobby fuse," it said.
"A preliminary examination of the explosive devices that were discovered at the scene of the shootout in Watertown and in the abandoned vehicle has revealed similarities to the explosives used at the Boston marathon. The remnants of at least one of the exploded IEDs at the scene of the shootout indicate that a low-grade explosive had been contained in a pressure cooker," the compliant said, adding that it was of the same brand as that of the marathon pressure cooker.