Moroccan teenager Salah Barhoum has been forced to deny today that he was linked to the Boston Marathon bombing after photos of him carrying a bag and accompanied by a man with a backpack near the finish line were published in the media.
The picture of the 17-year-old was widely circulated in the days following the explosions along with allegations that he was being sought by the FBI.
ABC News spoke to the brother of the 17-year-old track star and confirmed that he went to the police on Wednesday to clear his name.
Salah Barhoum’s younger brother said that their mother was “sick and upset” that he had been connected to the fatal attack.
“It made her think he had done something wrong,” the brother told ABC News.
“My brother is not the bomber.”
The high school athlete had originally thought that he wanted to run in the race but when he could not for unspecified reasons, he went to the marathon route to watch the others.
After seeing photos of himself online and speaking to the authorities, Salah Barhoum took to Facebook to clear his name after reportedly making contact with authorities, saying: “Going to the court right now!! S*** is real. But u will see guys I’m did not do anything.”
Several hours later on Wednesday evening, he posted again: “back home! everything is fake but god is with me.”
The images show one young man in a blue athletic top standing beside another man in a white baseball cap and black sweatshirt, is believed to be one that the FBI circulated among law enforcement officials.
It is believed that the FBI will later today release images of men they want to question in connection to the bombings. It is not clear if the picture of the Moroccan teenager and his “coach” are among those images, and they have not been
After the image was distributed rapidly, new claims emerged on social media sites that they were innocent bystanders.
Anonymous sources from online community Reddit said that they were “friends” of the man in the blue tracksuit, and said that he was “just a high school kid that loves track”.
From there, reports range from saying that the man beside him in the white hat is his coach to others asserting that the “kid” does not know the man. Neither man has been publicly identified by name.
The supposed acquaintances on Reddit said that the man in the black track suit spoke with police, who then called the FBI.
“Both are scared, the guy in this pic will miss school tomorrow, where hs competing for some track competition, the other guy will miss work,” Reddit user “desert_morning” posted early on Thursday.
Friends defended Salah Barhoum on Internet forums saying he was a high school track runner who had gone to watch the marathon on Monday with his coach.
Salah Barhoum describes himself as a keen runner and member of his high school track team. The teen works at Subway and posts that he is a fan of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Hunger Games and Hannah Montana.
On his Facebook profile, which has since been made private, Salah Barhoum posted pictures in the crowd along the race route on Boylston Street close to a large screen of the race.
The two people pictured-including the Moroccan-American teen- are not formally considered suspects.
“I wouldn’t characterize them as suspects under the technical term. But we need the public’s help in locating these individuals,” said Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Conflicting reports about the veracity of the photos and why authorities sent it out.
CBS reporter John Miller says that neither of the men pictured are suspects in the bombings that killed three and injured 183 on Monday.
Because of the crowded nature of the finish line, authorities are parsing through a combination of civilian footage and security tapes from nearby businesses. Reports of surveillance footage from a nearby Lord and Taylor’s department store gave initial hope about having the suspects pictured.