Boston blasts: FBI probe held up suspect's citizenship bid: NYT

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US officials decided in recent months not to grant Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's application for citizenship after a background check showed he had been interviewed in 2011 by the FBI, the New York Times reported.

Tsarnaev, a 26-year-old ethnic Chechen and one of two brothers suspected of carrying out Monday's twin bombings at the Boston Marathon, died early on Friday after a shootout with police.

Tsarnaev's citizenship application was under review and being investigated by federal law enforcement officials at the time of his death, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed federal officials.

The Department of Homeland Security halted, at least temporarily, the application after the FBI interview of Tsarnaev was discovered in a routine background check, the officials told the Times.

It had been previously reported that the application might have been held up because of a domestic abuse incident, it said.

Federal law enforcement officials said on Friday that the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev in January 2011 at the request of Russian authorities, who suspected that he had ties to Chechen terrorists, the Times said.

The US officials pointed to the decision to hold up Tsarnaev's application as evidence that his encounter with the FBI did not fall through the cracks in the databases that Homeland Security and the FBI review as a standard requirement for citizenship, according to the Times report.

The application, which Tsarnaev presented on Sept. 5, also prompted "additional investigation" of him this year by federal law enforcement agencies, the officials said.

They declined to say how far that examination had progressed or what it covered, the Times said.

Tsarnaev presented those papers several weeks after he returned from a six-month trip overseas, primarily to Russia, and only six days after his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, had his own citizenship application approved, the Times said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured by police in a Boston suburb on Friday and is in serious condition in a hospital.

Investigators are trying to determine a motive for the Boston bombings, which killed three people and wounded 176, and whether others may have been involved.