Investigators are looking into whether yesterday’s Boston Marathon explosions were the work of a homegrown radical as evidence suggested the bomber used weapons made from metal pressure cookers to maximize carnage.
“The range of suspects and motives remain wide open,” Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said at a news conference. “The person who did this was someone’s friend, neighbor or coworker.”
Evidence from the scene is undergoing laboratory tests, he said. The bombs may have been contained in cookers and surrounded by shrapnel such as nails, he said. Both were hidden inside dark nylon bags or backpacks, DesLauriers said.
A Boston television station released a photo today taken before the explosion showing a bag lying next to a mailbox and against a race-route barricade. A second image, blurred by WHDH-TV because of its graphic nature, suggested the explosion occurred where the bag had been placed. The viewer who took the pictures said there may be a lag of an hour or more between the two images, said WHDH, which didn’t identify the person.
The bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 170, was one of the highest-profile acts of terror in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Police said they didn’t have suspects and no organization claimed responsibility. U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials have said there were no indications of a plot beforehand.
President Barack Obama plans to travel to Boston on April 18 for a service for the victims of the bombing.
“This was a heinous and cowardly act and, given what we now know took place, the FBI is investigating this as an act of terrorism,” the president said in a televised statement at the White House, his second on the attack in less than 18 hours. “We don’t have a sense of motive yet, so everything at this point is speculation.”
Initial evidence suggests homegrown terrorism, Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters after the panel was briefed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
“There are a lot of things that are surrounding this that would give an indication it may have been a domestic terrorist,” Chambliss said. Still, he said, officials can’t say for certain.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a 2004 warning about the “potential terrorist use of pressure cookers,” saying the technique was “commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps” and also had been used in India.
Some victims had 40 or more fragments of pellet- and nail-like shrapnel embedded in their bodies, said Dr. George Velmahos, chief of trauma surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. The fragments were uniform, indicating that they came from the blasts and not from the surrounding environment, he said in a news briefing today.
Using a metal pressure cooker -- a variant on the more common pipe bomb -- increases the lethality of the blast due to the metal shards.
William C. Mackey, surgeon in chief at Tufts Medical Center, said at a briefing that each projectile removed becomes part of the investigation and is turned over to authorities.
“In the operating room last night, the nurses were very careful to isolate all the foreign bodies that were removed from the wounds, put them in a specimen container with the patient’s name and turn those over to the police,” he said.
The nation was on heightened alert. A terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport was evacuated because of a suspicious package and a US Airways Group Inc. flight was stopped on the tarmac and diverted to a remote location at Boston’s Logan Airport so authorities could search a bag. Pedestrian access in front of the White House was restricted for a second day.
“Yesterday we deployed our critical resources to hotels,” Ray Kelly, New York’s police commissioner, said at a news conference today. “We also patrolled houses of worship, significant infrastructure and city iconic potential targets -- Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building. We have increased our coverage in the subways; we have the second largest transit system in the world. We’re doing bag searches.”
Sporting events worldwide are looking to increase security. Organizers for the London Marathon, scheduled for April 21, and the Oklahoma City Marathon, scheduled for April 28, said they were reviewing protection plans. The Oklahoma City race commemorates victims of a bomb detonated in front of the city’s federal building on April 19, 1995.
Officials will be working for days at the mile-square scene of the attack, said DesLauriers, whose agency is in charge. He said citizens can help by sharing images.
“There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of photos and videos,” said Timothy Alben, superintendent of the State Police.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said security footage had been taken from nearby businesses.
Almost immediately, the two billowing clouds of white smoke visible in videos were a tipoff to bomb specialists about the explosives used. They indicated that the bomber used so-called smokeless or black-powder explosives rather than a military-style high-explosive such as C-4, which produces a distinctive black smoke, according to Fred Burton, former deputy chief of counterterrorism for the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service who investigated the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Gene Marquez, ATF acting special agent, said in a news conference that the force of the blast blew debris to the tops of buildings.
The blasts near Copley Square occurred as recreational runners were finishing about 2:50 p.m. local time yesterday, police said. Among the dead was an 8-year-old boy from the Dorchester neighborhood, Martin Richard. Medford, Massachusetts Mayor Michael McGlynn identified another victim as Krystle Campbell, 29.
The third person killed was a graduate student at Boston University, President Robert A. Brown said in an e-mail. The victim’s name wasn’t released. China’s consulate in New York said a Chinese citizen was among the dead. It didn’t disclose the person’s identity at the request of family, according to the consulate website.
Obama said the nation won’t be cowed by such acts. He cited people running to hospitals to give blood, others who tore off their clothes to make tourniquets, and first responders who plunged into the chaos to save lives.
“If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid,” the president said.