Boston: Mound of evidence

2013-04-16 22:41
Two men in haz-mat suits investigate the scene near the first bombing on Boylston Street in Boston. (Picture: Elise Amendola, AP)

Two men in haz-mat suits investigate the scene near the first bombing on Boylston Street in Boston. (Picture: Elise Amendola, AP)

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Boston - Investigators were combing through a large volume of evidence on Tuesday as they sought information about twin explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 170 others.

US President Barack Obama called the bombings "an act of terror", but stressed that the motive and perpetrator remained unknown.

"This was heinous and cowardly act, and given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism.

"Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror," he said.

"What we don't yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organisation, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual," Obama said in brief remarks at the White House.

FBI agent Rick DesLauriers, who is heading the investigation, also would not comment on possible suspects or whether domestic or foreign terrorism was suspected.

He said the investigation would extend beyond Boston to follow all leads, including abroad.

"We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice," he said.

Seventeen of the 176 victims were in critical condition, in addition to the three fatalities from what officials stressed were only two explosive devices in Monday's attack.

The victims included 8-year-old Martin Richard, whose father had just completed the marathon and whose mother and sister were seriously injured.

"We thank our family and friends, those we know and those we have never met, for their thoughts and prayers," the father, Bill Richard, said in a statement.

"I ask that you continue to pray for my family as we remember Martin. We also ask for your patience and for privacy as we work to simultaneously grieve and recover."

The Boston Globe identified another of those killed as 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.

Boston will overcome

People laid flowers at a police barrier set up around the scene of the explosions. Many marathon participants commemorated the victims and their families by going to the location wearing the blue-and-yellow shirts issued to runners.

Other marathon runners went to pick up their personal items, which they left prior to the race, and their medals.

The area near the finish line in the middle of the inner city remained cordoned off.

Beyond the police barricade lay empty water bottles, plastic containers and trash blowing in the wind. Stacks of unopened water bottles and granola bars meant for runners after they crossed the line stood on palettes at the edge of the street.

"This is a tragedy, but Boston is a strong city. We're a city that will get through this," Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Boston will overcome."

Police had warned just after the blasts that other devices could have been planted, but Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said "all other parcels" in the area had now been examined and no other bombs had been found.

Area hospitals meanwhile continued to treat victims suffering wounds from "a variety of sharp objects", including metal pellets and nails.

Doctor George Velmahos, head of Massachusetts General Hospital's trauma and emergency surgery division, said the clinic had conducted four amputations on limbs that were "beyond salvation".

Other hospitals also reported amputating limbs.

Velmahos said he believed most of the metal objects found in his patients had come from the bomb itself, but noted that there were also injuries from other flying debris.

Investigators put out a call to marathon spectators for video and photographs taken near the scene and were reviewing security cameras from nearby businesses.

City rescue officials offered a reward of $50 000 for tips that lead to arrests of suspects, and set up a support fund for the victims.

Twelve city blocks remained cordoned off, which police commissioner Ed Davis called "the most complex crime scene we've dealt with in the history of our department".

Robust security measures

Security was increased in several major US cities, including New York and Washington, and organisers of upcoming marathons, including Sunday's race in London, were reviewing their security arrangements.

The two explosions took place within seconds of each other at 18:50 GMT on Monday near the finishing line, about two hours after the elite runners had ended their race and at a time when people running in the back of the pack normally cross.

As the powerful explosive devices went off, runners collapsed to the ground, glass and windows were shattered, spectators fanned out in panic, many of them bleeding and screaming, leaving pavements stained with blood.

About 26 000 runners participated in this year's Boston Marathon. First run in 1897, it is the world's oldest city marathon.

The London Marathon taking place on Sunday is the world's largest, drawing more than half a million spectators from all over the world, and London Mayor Boris Johnson stressed "robust security measures" are in place.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the attacks "a barbarian crime" and offered assistance to US investigators.

Russian law enforcement agencies announced extra security measures for sports events, as the country is hosting the World Athletics Championships in August, the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup.

No international terrorist groups had claimed responsibility and the Pakistani Taliban said it was not involved in the attack.

"We do not know who carried out the attack and what the purpose was," spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan told dpa by phone.

The group claimed responsibility for an attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square in 2010, and has threatened to carry out attacks inside the United States.

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