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FBI handled info on Boston bomber 'appropriately': director

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is pictured in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 4, 2009
Tamerlan Tsarnaev is pictured in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 4, 2009

The FBI acted "appropriately" when furnished three years ago with information from Russia about the Chechen man who carried out last year's Boston Marathon bombing, the agency's director said Friday.

News reports this week said an inspector general's report suggested US law enforcement might have done more to thwart the April 15, 2013 bomb attacks that killed three people and injured about 260 others.

The report found that Russia informed US authorities in 2011 about the perpetrator of that attack -- Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a Chechen who had emigrated years earlier to the United States -- describing him as a "follower of radical Islam," news reports said.

But James Comey, the head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, pushed back against the critics, praising the work of investigators who handled the case.

"The FBI's Boston field office took responsible investigative steps and, as you recognized, generally shared information and followed procedures appropriately," he wrote in a letter released by the bureau.

The New York Times reported this week that FBI officials, after initially investigating Tsarnaev, dropped their probe when Russia declined several requests for additional information they had about him.

The IG report also noted that after the bombing, Moscow shared the additional intelligence, including information from a telephone conversation the Russian authorities had intercepted between Tamerlan and his mother in which they discussed jihad, according to the New York Times and other news reports.

"FBI agents and analysts throughout the world... have to make critical judgments in real time, almost always with imperfect information, and often in dangerous circumstances," Comey said in his letter.

"I am proud of the work that the Boston field office did in this case, before the bombings as well as after them, and I am proud of all the people of the FBI who have made the safety of the American people their life's mission."

The Boston Marathon bombings one year ago, which killed three people and wounded about 260, used two explosive devices fashioned from pressure cookers that went off near the finish line of the race.

Tsarnaev, 26, died last year after an exchange of fire with police while he and his younger brother Dzhokhar, his co-conspirator in the bombings, were on the run.

US authorities are seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for his alleged role in the blasts. He has pleaded not guilty; his trial begins in November.

The one-time student has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges related to the bombings, including 17 serious charges that can carry sentences of death or life in prison.

These charges include using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, as well as conspiracy and bombing of a place of public use resulting in death, and carjacking.

He is also charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the brothers' wild overnight getaway attempt.