BOSTON, Massachusetts: A US grand jury on Thursday indicted teenager Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on 30 counts in connection with the April double bomb attack on the Boston marathon that killed three people and injured more than 260.
The counts include using a weapon of mass destruction and causing death by bombing a public place. Federal prosecutors said 17 of the charges carry a possible death penalty.
Tsarnaev is to be formally arraigned in Boston district court on July 10, prosecutors said in a statement announcing the charges after weeks of questioning the man at his prison hospital bedside.
Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan are accused of leaving two pressure cooker bombs at the marathon finish line on April 15 that sprayed nails and other metal debris into the huge crowds.
The ethnic Chechen Muslim brothers are also said to have killed a campus police officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the giant manhunt that followed.
Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a gun battle with police four days after the attack. Hours later, Dzhokhar, 19, was found in a boat in a Boston suburb back garden and caught after another showdown.
The university student suffered a bullet wound to his throat and was said to be only communicating by writing answers on paper.
US investigators have been looking into the brothers’ links to radical Muslim elements in their native Russia. Tsarnaev was naturalized as an American citizen last year.
The indictment says that while hiding in the boat, the critically wounded Tsarnaev wrote on it: “The US government is killing innocent civilians.”
“I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished,” he added. “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one, you hurt us all.”
Charges announced by prosecutors include use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, bombing a public place resulting in death, malicious destruction of property resulting in death, using a firearm causing death and carjacking.
The indictment alleges that the brothers conspired to carry out the attack on the 117th Boston Marathon from February this year.
Video released by police at the time showed two young men walking calmly through the crowds to place backpacks which it later emerged contained pressure cooker bombs.
The bombs were detonated seconds apart, killing a boy, a Chinese student and a woman restaurant manager. At least 13 of the injured had limbs torn off.
The bombs “were designed to shred skin, shatter bone, and cause extreme pain and suffering, as well as death,” said the indictment.
Three days later, photos of the two suspects were released and a major manhunt launched during which inhabitants of much of the Boston region were ordered to stay indoors.
The indictment alleges the brothers had five home-made bombs, a semi-automatic handgun, a machete and a hunting knife when they drove to MIT and shot and killed a police officer.
Gun battles erupted at Watertown, in the Boston suburbs. The brothers hurled four of the bombs at police before Tamerlan was gunned down.
The indictment says “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev then re-entered the carjacked vehicle and drove it directly at the officers, running over his brother as he managed to escape.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hours later hiding in the boat.
“Seventeen of the charges authorize a penalty of up to life in prison or the death penalty,” said the prosecutors’ statement.
“The remaining charges authorize a maximum penalty of life in prison or a fixed term of years.”