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New York bombing: suspect named as more devices found in New Jersey
New York police have named a suspect in the bombing that injured 29 people in Manhattan on Saturday night, as officials backtrack from initial claims that the attack did not have a "foreign" connection.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized US citizen born in Afghanistan, was identified by authorities as a suspect on Monday morning.
The investigation "might suggest a foreign connection to the action, which would then obviously raise an issue of the foreign nature of this attack", New York governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN.
The identification comes shortly after five additional suspected explosive devices were found in a backpack near a train station in New Jersey, late on Sunday night. One of those devices exploded when a bomb squad robot tried to disarm it near Elizabeth train station, the local mayor said.
Christian Bollwage said the device exploded shortly after 12.30am on Monday. The FBI was leading the investigation and working to disarm the other four devices.
FBI agents and police were seen to converge on an apartment near the Elizabeth station. It was not immediately confirmed if there was a connection between the apartment and the explosion.
Bollwage told CNN: "The robots that were going in to disarm it cut a wire and it exploded. I don't know the technological aspect of that. I know there are other devices. I don't know what they are made up of but they are going to have to be removed and all the fragments from the other pieces are going to have to be picked up so the FBI can investigate this fully."
He told NBC: "Based on the loudness, I think people could have been severely hurt or injured if they had been in the vicinity."
There were no reports of injuries. Bollwage said to expect more detonations. Two men called police, he said, and reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of a package after finding it at about 8.30pm on Sunday.
New Jersey Transit said services were suspended between Newark Liberty airport and Elizabeth while New Jersey-bound Amtrak trains were being held at New York Penn station. Such services resumed on Monday morning.
Investigators earlier said the bomb that rocked the Chelsea neighbourhood in Manhattan contained residue of an explosive often used for target practice as investigators followed multiple leads into the attack.
On Monday morning, Governor Cuomo said the city had mobilized "more security forces probably than ever in history right now", noting that extra personnel were in place due to the bombing, along with the impending United Nations general assembly and a scheduled visit from Barack Obama.
"That should make you feel better about the situation," Cuomo told city residents.
The bomb on Saturday night that injured 29 people was made with a pressure cooker, cellphone, Christmas lights, and packed with shrapnel - the same construction as an unexploded device found a few blocks away, according to separate reports.
The evidence of Tannerite - a black powder that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores and is used to mark a shot - may be important as authorities piece together the events of the weekend and examine whether they were linked to a pipe bomb that exploded in a New Jersey shore town on Saturday.
"We're going to be very careful and patient to get to the full truth here," New York's mayor, Bill de Blasio, said on Sunday. "We have more work to do to be able to say what kind of motivation was behind this. Was it a political motivation? A personal motivation? What was it? We do not know that yet."
Mobile phones were discovered at the site of the bombing and the unexploded device, but no Tannerite residue was identified in the bomb remnants near Elizabeth station, in which a black powder was detected, said the official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
On Sunday night, FBI agents in Brooklyn stopped "a vehicle of interest in the investigation" of the Manhattan explosion, according to FBI spokeswoman Kelly Langmesser. She did not provide further details, but a government official and a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that five people in the car were being questioned at an FBI building in lower Manhattan. No one had been charged with any crime and the investigation was continuing, Langmesser said.
According to the New York Times, the bombs in Manhattan were both filled with "fragmentation material" such as BB pellets or small ball bearings. The report also said that the devices both used pressure cookers, mobile phones and Christmas lights as the initiator in the detonation process.
The second device was removed early on Sunday by a bomb squad robot and New York City police blew it up in the Bronx in a controlled explosion on Sunday evening, authorities said.
Homemade pressure cooker bombs were used in the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers who carried out the attacks, built the devices using instructions found in al-Qaida's Inspire online magazine.
"The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn't point to any group that's been developing [improvised explosive devices] for years," a US official who requested anonymity told Reuters.
The official added that the crude nature of the devices and the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned that the blasts were just a test of New York's security.
"That's what worries us: was this some kind of test run, not just of the devices, but also of the surveillance in New York and the response?" the official said.
Technicians at the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, were examining evidence from the Manhattan bombing, described by witnesses as a deafening blast that shattered storefront windows and injured bystanders with shrapnel in the mostly residential neighbourhood on the city's west side. All 29 of the injured people were released from the hospital by Sunday afternoon.
The explosion left many rattled in a city that had marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks only a week earlier.
"People didn't know what was going on and that's what was scary," said Anthony Zayas, an actor who was in the Chelsea neighbourhood on Saturday night when the bomb went off. "You didn't know if it was coming from the subway beneath you, you didn't know if there were other bombs, you didn't know where to go."
The bomb in Manhattan appeared to have been placed near a large dumpster in front of a building undergoing construction, another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP.
An additional 1,000 state troopers and members of the national guard were placed at transit hubs and other points throughout New York and extra police officials were patrolling Manhattan, officials said. Members of the FBI's joint terrorism taskforce were investigating the blast along with NYPD detectives, fire marshals and other federal investigators.
Meanwhile, a law enforcement official said federal investigators had discounted a claim of responsibility on Tumblr. Investigators looked into it and did not consider it relevant to the case, said the official.
[Fuente: By Jamiles Lartey in New York, Martin Farrer and agencies, The Guardian, London, 19Sep16]
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