MAKHACHKALA, Russia (Reuters) - A man who identified himself as the father of two brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings said on Friday he believed his sons had been framed and pleaded with police to spare his younger son who was still on the run.
U.S. police said they killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and were conducting a massive search for his brother and suspected accomplice, Dzhokhar, 19, on Friday after the bombings killed three people and wounded 176.
Both ethnic Chechens, the brothers lived in Russia's volatile Dagestan region, which borders Chechnya, more than a decade ago before moving to the United States.
Sitting on an unmade bed in his home in Dagestan's provincial capital Makhachkala, Anzor Tsarnaev, defended his sons' innocence.
"Somebody clearly framed them. I don't know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead," he told Reuters, clasping his head in despair.
"I'm scared for my boy - that they will shoot him dead too," said the thin man in a black-and-blue sweater. "They should arrest him, bring him in, alive. And the judicial system should investigate everything, who's right and who's guilty."
Tsarnaev also said he was expecting the younger brother to visit him in Dagestan soon for summer holidays, before cutting the interview short.
It was not possible to independently verify he was the brothers' father, but he has also been identified as such in Russian and other media reports.
In the United States, a man who told reporters he was an uncle of the brothers said they went to America in the early 2000s and settled in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, area.
Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in suburban Washington and has not spoken to the brothers since 2009, said the bombings "put a shame on our family. It put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity."
Russia said on Friday it was awaiting official information from the United States about the brothers whose homeland Chechnya fought two bloody separatist wars against Moscow in 1994-2000.
More than a decade later, the North Caucasus region is still volatile, with Dagestan now the epicentre of violence.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)