Authorities search woods near Boston Marathon bombing suspect’s college

·National Correspondent

Federal investigators are searching various sites around Dartmouth, Mass., near where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to college as authorities continue to look for evidence related to the attack.

Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, confirmed the searches in an email amid local reports that law enforcement officials were spotted combing through a wooded area not far from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where Tsarnaev was a student.

“The searches at various locations in Dartmouth, Mass., today are part of the ongoing investigation into the marathon bombing,” she said. “Residents should be advised that there is no threat to public safety.”

The Standard-Times newspaper in nearby New Bedford quoted a local man who spied dozens of local police and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms searching a nature area with police dogs. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office confirmed that FBI agents also were involved in the search.

The search came as the New York Times and NBC News quoted unnamed federal officials who said Tsarnaev told authorities he and his brother Tamerlan, who was killed during a gunbattle with police on April 19, originally had planned to carry out their attack on July 4. But the bombings allegedly were moved up because the brothers completed building their explosives ahead of time.

Federal officials still are trying to figure out where the suspects built the arsenal of explosives, which included pressure cooker bombs and several pipe bombs.

On Wednesday, three college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s were arrested and charged with obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents. They allegedly admitted to removing a backpack and laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at U-Mass after they realized he was one of the suspects in the marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 200.

Federal agents recovered the backpack from a local landfill last week and found it contained several fireworks that had been opened and emptied of powder. Officials later said they also had recovered Tsarnaev’s laptop, though it was unclear where it was found.

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