Bombing suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (right) and brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Bombing suspects Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (right) and brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

BOSTON — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been charged, the Justice Department announced today.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev, 19, made his initial appearance today before Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler in his hospital room at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

The decision to charge Tsarnaev in civilian court put an end to speculation that he would be charged as an enemy combatant, a designation sometimes used against terrorists.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the decision not to treat Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant is “absolutely the right way to go and the appropriate way to go.”

Naturalised US citizen

Carney said that because Tsarnaev is a naturalised US citizen, he cannot be tried by a military commission.

“And it is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists,” Carney said.

Despite being seriously wounded and heavily sedated, Tsarnaev is answering brief questions from his hospital bed by nodding his head, a source with first-hand knowledge of the investigation told CNN today.

Authorities are asking the 19-year-old if there are more bombs, explosives caches or weapons, and if anyone else was involved, the source said.

Investigators are going into Tsarnaev’s room every few hours to ask questions in the presence of doctors, the source said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what he may be communicating.

Tsarnaev, who is on a ventilator and restrained, has been hospitalised since authorities took him into custody Friday night after finding him hiding in a boat in the back yard of a Watertown, Massachusetts, home.

His injuries include a wound to the lower half of his body and a neck wound, the source said. It wasn’t clear when he received the neck wound.

Tsarnaev had also lost a lot of blood and may have hearing loss from two flash-bang devices used to draw him out of the boat, the source said.

Investigators believe Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were behind the attacks that killed three people and wounded more than 170 others a week ago Monday.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died early Friday at a hospital after a shootout with police.

The developments came the same day as memorial services for two people killed in the bombings and a planned moment of silence to honour victims. (CNN)

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