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Suspect in Boston marathon attack charged with using a weapon of mass destruction

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WASHINGTON (NBC) – Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction – and the White House said he will be tried in a civilian court.

"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions.  And it is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict  and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists."

Tsarnaev, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chechen origin, made his initial court appearance at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical  Center, where he was listed in serious condition.

He was charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. and one count of malicious destruction of property with an explosive device. The charges could carry the death penalty.

"Today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

"We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Before being charged, Tsarnaev had been answering investigators' questions in writing because a throat wound -- possibly the result of a suicide attempt -- prevented him from speaking, federal officials told NBC News.

The FBI was hoping to uncover a motive for the attack last Monday that killed three people -- one of whom, Krystle Campbell, was being laid to rest in Medford.

Investigators also want to know whether Tsarnaev, a U.S. citizen of Chechen origin, and his brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was killed in a firefight with police early Friday, received assistance from others, officials said.

The feds have asked to speak with Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, who converted to Islam after she met her future husband at a nightclub. She dropped out of college, got married and had a baby three years ago.

Her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, told The Associated Press he was trying to work out the details of an interview.

His client, he said, worked up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tamerlan watched their daughter and didn't have any suspicions he might be plotting something.

He said she last saw her husband at home on Thursday morning, hours before he and his younger brother allegedly executed a campus police officer, pulled off the carjacking, and led police on a wild bomb-tossing chase that ended in a 200-bullet gun battle.

The carjacking victim told police his abductors told them they were the marathon bombers and said they would not kill him because he "wasn't American," according to a police report obtained by NBC News.

The man, who has asked that his identity not be revealed, told NBC News that he managed to escape and called his captors "brutal and cautious."

Boston's top police official said Monday that while there are many unanswered questions, the city can rest easy.

"We're satisfied the two main actors, the people that were committing the damage out there, have been either captured or killed," Police Commissioner Ed Davis said on TODAY.

"There is still an open question as to exactly what happened in this investigation," he said. "We can't say with 100 percent certainty...anything, actually, at this point."

Among the mysteries Tsarnaev could solve is what his brother did when he traveled to Russia last year and who he met.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on "Meet the Press" that trip could be when Tamerlan "got that final radicalization to push him to commit acts of violence and where he may have received training."

Authorities are also trying to figure out where the suspects got their bomb-making supplies and guns. Cambridge Police said neither one had the necessary permits to carry firearms.

Immigration officials have arrested two of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's friends on immigration violations, days after they were detained and questioned by police in New Bedford, Mass.

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