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Boston suspect not 'enemy combatant': White House

A computer screen displays an undated picture of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on April 19, 2013
A man looks in Moscow on April 19, 2013, at a computer screen displaying an undated picture of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, posted on his page on VKontakte, a Russian social media site. The White House on Monday insisted that the surviving suspect in th

The White House on Monday insisted that the surviving suspect in the Boston bombings would not be treated as an "enemy combatant" but would be tried through the US civilian justice system.

"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, following calls from some Republicans for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be granted the same status as "War on Terror" detainees.

"We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice," Carney said, arguing that US law prohibited a US citizen being tried in the military court system.

Carney said that since the September 11, 2001 attacks the US government had repeatedly and successfully used civilian courts to try terror suspects.

"The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully handle the threat we continue to face," Carney said.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have led calls for the teenager to be declared an "enemy combatant," which would give him the same status as detainees held at the Guantanamo military prison.

Tsarnaev is currently being treated in a hospital in Boston for injuries including a throat wound, but has reportedly been communicating with a special investigation team, which handles high value targets, by writing.

The 19-year-old was initially not read his legal rights or offered access to a lawyer, after officials invoked a special exception for security reasons.

But the White House statement on his status means he will eventually be processed through civilian courts.