Suspects, motive sought in Boston blasts

2013-04-16 16:02
Peace is written on the sidewalk in front of the Richard house in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. Martin Richard, aged 8, was killed in the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Michael Dwyer, AP)

Peace is written on the sidewalk in front of the Richard house in the Dorchester neighbourhood of Boston. Martin Richard, aged 8, was killed in the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Michael Dwyer, AP)

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Boston — The FBI's investigation into the bombings at the Boston Marathon was in full swing on Tuesday, with authorities serving a warrant on a suburban Boston home and appealing for any private video, audio and still images of the blasts that killed three and wounded 140.

Officials said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings on one of the city's most famous civic holidays, Patriots Day. But the blasts that left the streets spattered with blood and glass raised fears of a terrorist attack.

President Barack Obama was careful not to use the words "terror" or "terrorism" as he spoke at the White House on Monday after the deadly bombings, but an administration official said the bombings were being treated as an act of terrorism.

"We will find out who did this. We'll find out why they did this," the president said. "Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups, will feel the full weight of justice."

A European security official said on Tuesday initial evidence indicates that the attacks were not the work of suicide bombers.

"So far, investigators believe it was not the work of suicide bombers, but it is still too early to rule it out completely," said the official, who spoke from the United States on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak about the US investigation.

Blasts 10 seconds apart

The Pakistani Taliban, which has threatened attacks in the United States because of its support for the Pakistani government, on Tuesday denied any role in the marathon bombings.

The fiery explosions took place about 10 seconds and about 90m apart, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending dense plumes of smoke rising over the street and through the fluttering national flags lining the route.

Blood stained the pavement, and huge shards were missing from window panes as high as three stories. Victims suffered broken bones, shrapnel wounds and ruptured eardrums.

Roupen Bastajian, a state trooper from Smithfield, Rhode Island, had just finished the race when he heard the explosions.

"I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor," he said. "We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. ... At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing."

At Massachusetts General Hospital, Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services, said: "This is something I've never seen in my 25 years here ... this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war."

Apartment searched

As many as two unexploded bombs were found near the end of the 42.16km course as part of what appeared to be a well-co-ordinated attack, but they were safely disarmed, according to a senior US intelligence official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.

WBZ-TV reported late on Monday that law enforcement officers were searching an apartment in the Boston suburb of Revere. Massachusetts State Police confirmed that a search warrant related to the investigation into the explosions was served Monday night in Revere, but provided no further details.

Some investigators were seen leaving the Revere house early on Tuesday carrying brown paper bags, plastic trash bags and a duffel bag.

Police said three people were killed. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was among the dead, according to a person who talked to a friend of the family and spoke on condition of anonymity. The person said the boy's mother and sister were also injured as they waited for his father to finish the race.

Hospitals reported at least 144 people injured, at least 17 of them critically. At least eight children were being treated at hospitals.

Tim Davey of Richmond, Virginia, was with his wife, Lisa, and children near a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners when the injured began arriving. "They just started bringing people in with no limbs," he said.

Orders to stay indoors

"Most [were] conscious," Lisa Davey said. "They were very dazed."

The Boston Marathon is one of the world's oldest and most prestigious races and about 23 000 runners participated. The race honoured the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting with a special mile marker in Monday's race.

Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

One of the city's biggest annual events, the race winds up near Copley Square, not far from the landmark Prudential Centre and the Boston Public Library. It is held on Patriots Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, at Concord and Lexington in 1775.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know whether the bombs were hidden in mailboxes or trash cans.

He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.

Scant information

The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft within 5.6km of the site.

"We still don't know who did this or why," Obama said at the White House, adding, "Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this."

With scant official information to guide them, members of Congress said there was little or no doubt it was an act of terrorism.

"We just don't know whether it's foreign or domestic," said Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairperson of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

A few kilometres away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said that it may have been caused by an incendiary device but that it was not clear whether it was related to the bombings.

The first explosion occurred on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the finish line, and some people initially thought it was a celebratory cannon blast.

Timed for maximum carnage


When the second bomb went off, spectators' cheers turned to screams. As sirens blared, emergency workers and National Guardsmen who had been assigned to the race for crowd control began climbing over and tearing down temporary fences to get to the blast site.

The bombings occurred about four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the finish line. By that point, more than 17 000 of the athletes had finished the marathon, but thousands more were still running.

The attack may have been timed for maximum carnage: The four-hour mark is typically a crowded time near the finish line because of the slow-but-steady recreational runners completing the race and because of all the friends and relatives clustered around to cheer them on.

Runners in the medical tent for treatment of dehydration or other race-related ills were pushed out to make room for victims of the bombing.

A woman who was a few metres from the second bomb, Brighid Wall, aged 35, said that when it exploded, runners and spectators froze, unsure of what to do. Her husband threw their children to the ground, lay on top of them and another man lay on top of them and said, "Don't get up, don't get up."

After a minute or so without another explosion, Wall said, she and her family headed to a Starbucks and out the back door through an alley. Around them, the windows of the bars and restaurants were blown out.

She said she saw six to eight people bleeding profusely, including one man who was kneeling, dazed, with blood trickling down his head. Another person was on the ground covered in blood and not moving.

"My ears are zinging. Their ears are zinging," Wall said. "It was so forceful. It knocked us to the ground."

- AP

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  security  |  boston explosions
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