October 22, 2016

New York bombing: both devices used pressure cooker and phone – reports

New York mayor Bill de Blasio, right, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo, centre, stand in front of the remains of the dumpster used to hide Saturday’s bomb. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

The bomb that rocked Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood contained residue of an explosive often used for target practice , a federal official has said, as investigators followed multiple leads into the attack.

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.

Trains were stopped near Elizabeth in New Jersey on Sunday night as police investigated a suspicious package at the station, an NBC reporter tweeted. New Jersey Transit said services between Elizabeth and Newark airport were suspended because of police activity.

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 Saturday’s events and examine whether they were linked to a pipe bomb blast in a New Jersey shore town earlier in the day.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo, touring the site of the Manhattan blast, said there did not appear to be any link to international terrorism. He said the second device appeared “similar in design” to the first, but did not provide details.

“We’re going to be very careful and patient to get to the full truth here,” New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, 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.”

Cell phones were discovered at the site of both bombings, but no Tannerite residue was identified in the New Jersey bomb remnants, in which a black powder was detected, said the official, who spoke to Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Authorities said the Manhattan bombing and the blast 11 hours earlier at the site of a 5km race to benefit Marines and sailors in Seaside Park, New Jersey, did not appear to be connected, though they were not ruling anything out. The New Jersey race was cancelled and no one was injured.

Officials have not revealed any details about the makeup of the pressure-cooker device, except to say it had wires and a cellphone attached to act as timer.

However, 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, cellphones 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.

A police robot handles the unexploded pressure cooker bomb in West 27th Street in New York.
A police robot handles the unexploded pressure cooker bomb in West 27th Street in New York. Photograph: Lucien Harriot/Getty Images

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,” said 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 neighborhood 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 and where a United Nations meeting to address the refugee crisis in Syria was scheduled on Monday.

“People didn’t know what was going on, and that’s what was scary,” said Anthony Zayas, an actor who was in the Chelsea neighborhood Saturday night when the bomb went off. “You didn’t know if 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 task force were investigating the blast along with NYPD detectives, fire marshals and other federal investigators.

Meanwhile, a law enforcement official said federal investigators discounted a claim of responsibility on the social blogging service Tumblr. Investigators looked into it and didn’t consider it relevant to the case, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

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