Night of terror in Boston suburb as police chase bomb suspect

As a sleepless night dragged into the day on Friday, thousands of residents in Watertown, Massachusetts remained locked in their homes, ordered by police to stay put, as heavily armed officers searched for a 19-year-old man suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon on Monday.

Having been jolted out of sleep overnight by explosions and a gunfight between police and two suspects, many residents said they were trying to stay calm as tensions mounted, armored vehicles rolled through their neighbourhoods and SWAT teams conducted door-to-door searches.

Overnight, police in a shootout killed one of the men suspected in having planted the bombs at Monday's Boston Marathon.

They were searching for the other in a house-to-house manhunt. Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (19) and said the dead suspect was his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev (26).

The fight came to the working-class city of Watertown, home to some 32 000 residents, many of whom were attracted to the Boston suburb by a sense of safety and community.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene of fireballs, screeching police vehicles and law enforcement officers pointing assault weapons. Some witnesses said they saw men throwing grenades at the officers and heard "a rain of bullets". 

Witnesses said the suspects were firing out of their vehicle. Police chased the pair not long after they had allegedly carjacked an SUV and took off on the high speed chase. Witnesses said police shouted orders at bystanders to turn off their cell phones for fear that the devices might accidentally detonate more explosives.

By morning, hundreds of heavily armed police, many dressed in black SWAT team uniforms with helmets and rifles pointed, rolled through the streets in armored vehicles.

Off the streets 
Police sent out an automated call to all homes ordering citizens off the streets, leaving the normally bustling commercial area near the city's shopping mall as a police staging area. Already on edge since Monday's bombing, residents said tensions rose further when Massachusetts officials shut down all mass transit shortly before 6 am EDT and expanded the lockdown to include the city of Boston by 8 am. 

Police asked people to stay inside, lock their doors and not admit anyone but properly identified police.

The lockdown applied to Cambridge, Waltham, Newton, Belmont, all of Boston, as well as Watertown, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said.

As the hours ticked on, Boston mayor Thomas Menino and police urged citizens to be patient while police were "actively pursuing every lead in this active emergency event". 

By early afternoon, police said they had new leads and were pursuing them. Most of the activity was concentrated in Watertown where hundreds of uniformed police kept watch as others went from door to door in an area described as 20 blocks large.

Speculation mounted among residents that the men might have had friends in the city, which has a large Armenian and Russian population.

Earlier in the day SWAT teams had searched Watertown resident Nicholas Fandettis' garage and yard, less than 1.6 km from the house that appeared to be the central focus of the Watertown search. "The kids are a little nervous. They can sense what's going on," Fandetti said.

Another nearby resident, who asked not to give his name, said, "This drama is playing out in many locations, my home in Watertown and very close to my business in Cambridge. Luckily we have food in the house and are watching it all on television."

Police worked day and night since Monday to try to find out who set off two bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 170. This manhunt began just hours after the FBI released photos and videos on Thursday of two suspects and appealed to the public for help in finding the two young men seen in the images.

Watertown resident Liz Yusem said she wasn't letting her children, ages 7 and 9, watch TV because she was worried the sounds and sights of the manhunt in their neighbourhood would terrify them.

Already, she said her daughter had expressed fear that bad guys were coming for them. "It's too scary for young children," she said. – Reuters

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