The hospitalized Boston Marathon bombing suspect charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction has told investigators that he and his brother were motivated by religion but were not in contact with overseas terrorists or groups, officials said.
Several officials familiar with the initial interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev described his behavior during questioning as cooperative.
A senior government official said Tsarnaev has told investigators — by writing some answers down, and by nodding yes or shaking his head no to others — that he and his brother were not in touch with any overseas terrorists or groups.
Tsarnaev, who has injuries to his tongue preventing him from speaking properly, also indicated that he and his brother conceived the bombing attack on their own, and were motivated by religious fervor.
Earlier on Monday, the White House said he will be tried in a civilian court.
Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing.
“He will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
“Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. And it is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.”
Tsarnaev, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chechen origin, made his initial court appearance at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition.
He was advised of his rights and charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. and one count of malicious destruction of property with an explosive device.
He was assigned three federal public defenders. The charges could carry the death penalty.
The suspect agreed to "voluntary detention," but declined to answer questions about bail, according to a court record. A probable cause hearing was set for May 30.
"Today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
"We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law."