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Locals reclaim Boston blast zone

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

With a sigh of relief, Boston merchants and residents forced to evacuate after last week's marathon bombings started reclaiming their neighborhood Tuesday from investigators probing the attack.

As authorities said the number of people wounded in the twin blasts had risen to 264, more details emerged about the ethnic Chechen brothers accused of carrying out the bombings, while investigators work to piece together a motive.

But in the downtown Back Bay district including Boylston Street, site of the marathon finish line and the explosions that left three dead on April 15, the focus was on regaining a sense of normalcy after a hellish week.

"I feel a lot of excitement to get back home," said Clare Gross, who has been living with in-laws for the past week.

Gross recounted that on the day of the blasts she was evacuated in a matter of seconds, and left home wearing only slippers and a T-shirt.

"I even left the TV on," she told AFP.

The re-populating of several evacuated blocks of Boylston Street -- one per hour -- is being done in a staggered fashion and will be finished later Tuesday, city officials said.

Ted Borash said agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation had accompanied him back into his print shop -- just 30 yards (meters) from the site of the second blast -- four days ago to check for explosives.

"It was an eerie feeling. I lost a lot of money but it is not important," he said of his forced closure.

City officials say some 400 shops and companies have signed up to receive financial assistance in the wake of the bombings.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old who was captured Friday after a massive citywide manhunt, has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and could face the death penalty if convicted.

His 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was killed last week in a shootout with police a few days after the bombings -- the worst terror attack on civilians in the US since the suicide airliner strikes of September 11, 2001.

The younger brother was arraigned in his hospital bed, where he is recovering from gunshot wounds. His health was apparently improving -- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Tuesday listed his condition as fair.

The New York Times said Dzhokhar has admitted to being driven by radical Islamic ideas and the Washington Post said he told investigators the attacks were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both media outlets said officials do not believe Dzhokhar and his brother were linked to any organized militant groups.

Investigators are still looking into whether Tamerlan was radicalized or trained during a trip last year to Russia's troubled regions of Dagestan and Chechnya, home to fierce Islamist and separatist rebel groups.

At home in the United States, the Tsarnaev brothers only occasionally attended Muslim prayers in the Boston-area town of Cambridge, but the elder brother was known for interrupting sermons, the mosque said Tuesday.

Twice in recent months, Tamerlan interrupted sermons, once because Muslims were being told it was acceptable to celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving. He was reprimanded and told to keep quiet during sermons, and he ultimately complied, said the Islamic Society of Boston.

Tamerlan's wife meanwhile issued a statement through her lawyers saying that she was "doing everything she can to assist (the) ongoing investigation."

Katherine Russell, 24, who married Tamerlan in June 2010 and has a three-year-old child with him, said news that the two brothers may have been behind last week's carnage came as an "absolute shock" to her.

US lawmakers have questioned why Tamerlan did not raise red flags with law enforcement after the FBI questioned him in 2011 at the request of Moscow or after he took the six-month trip to the volatile Caucasus region.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the US government's security system "pinged" when Tsarnaev flew to Russia last year but that by the time he returned all investigations into the matter had been closed.

Closed-door intelligence briefings on the attacks were held Tuesday in the Senate and the House.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130423/locals-reclaim-boston-blast-zone