Law-enforcement officials searched an apartment in the Boston suburb of Revere as the FBI took over the investigation into deadly bombings that struck near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday.
The explosive devices may have been packed with ball bearings, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter. Federal investigators were combing through video from several cameras and examining debris for forensic clues.
Blocks near the scene were closed off with yellow crime tape this morning, while police and emergency vehicles lined the streets. The explosions, which authorities described as an act of terror, killed three people and injured scores.
The explosions near Copley Square occurred as recreational runners were finishing about 2:50 p.m. local time yesterday, police said. At least 140 people were hospitalized and as many as eight were in critical condition, officials said. Among the dead was an 8-year-old boy, the Boston Globe reported.
“This is the sort of carnage you expect to see in war,” Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, said at a news briefing. Peter Fagenholz, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, said in a briefing that many of the wounded had shrapnel injuries and doctors had performed several amputations.
While businesses in the area were open, some workers were being encouraged to stay home. In hotels, runners were making arrangements to get to Logan Airport for morning flights home.
Witnesses described a joyous scene turned hellish as spectators watched runners finishing one of the oldest and most prestigious road races in the world.
Phil Kirkpatrick, a 59-year-old from Nashville, was watching the race when the blast blew his mobile phone out of his hand. He looked down to see a piece of flesh about the size of a button on his blood-spattered jeans, he said. Then, he looked up to see a man with his foot blown off and a medic trying to revive a woman with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“There were some very hurt people,” he said.
Martin Richard, an 8-year-old from nearby Dorchester, was killed in the bombing, which also injured his mother and sister, the Globe said.
Boston police had largely cleared the area where the blasts occurred last night and had no suspect in custody, Commissioner Ed Davis said at a news briefing. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken charge of the case, said Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston office.
“It is a criminal investigation that is a potential terrorist investigation,” he said.
Authorities were questioning a foreigner with an expired student visa, though he wasn’t a suspect or person of interest, said a federal law-enforcement official who asked not to be identified because the official wasn’t authorized to speak as the investigation was continuing.
Federal and local law enforcement officers searched an apartment in the suburb of Revere, according to a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter.
The Revere Fire Department said it assisted state police bomb technicians in a search, according to a post on the fire company’s Facebook page.
“We still do not know who did this or why,” President Barack Obama said in a briefing at the White House yesterday. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
While he didn’t use the word terrorism to describe the attack, an administration official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said the bombings are being investigated as an act of terror.
The Pakistani Taliban denied any involvement in the bombings, the Associated Press reported, citing spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan. The group provided training for the 2010 failed car bombing in New York’s Time Square.
The U.S. had no information that any foreign group was planning an attack, said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee.
“We’ve known for some time that a public event where there were a lot of people would be subject to this possibility,” she said.
Officials in Washington and New York stepped up security, including in the subways.
The blasts at the Boston race, which attracts about 25,000 runners and 500,000 spectators each year, follow several bombing attempts since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old man from Bangladesh, pleaded guilty in February to planning to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for the attempted car bombing in Times Square, and Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to supporting al-Qaeda and plotting in 2009 to attack New York subways.
Nor was the attack the first bombing of a major U.S. sporting event.
A blast at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996 killed two people and injured more than 100. Eric Robert Rudolph, an anti-abortion activist, admitted detonating the 40-pound pipe bomb.
The Boston Marathon, first run in 1897, is considered the most prestigious in the U.S. and is held every Patriot’s Day, a statewide holiday celebrating the first battles of the American Revolution. Its 26.2-mile course runs from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.