Boston Marathon Bombings An “Act of Terror”
UPDATE: At the White House today President Barack Obama called the Boston Marathon bombings an “act of terror” but said it is not clear yet whether they were the work of a foreign or domestic group or a “malevolent individual.” Obama urged Americans to be vigilant and to watch for suspicious activity a day after two explosions rocked the finish line of the marathon, killing at least three people and wounding scores more.
Police have not taken anyone into custody in connection with their investigation, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said today. A total of 176 people were treated at area hospitals as a result of the attacks and 17 are in critical condition, Davis told a news conference.
Late Monday, police searched a Boston area apartment of a Saudi Arabian student who was injured in the blast, law enforcement sources said.
Today, law enforcement sources briefed on the case said that the evidence was indicating that the Saudi student, who had been temporarily considered a “person of interest” in the investigation, would be cleared of suspicion and was unlikely to shed any light on the attack.
Richard Deslauriers, FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, declined to name any people being interviewed in the case.
Dispelling earlier reports of as many as seven devices being found around Boston, Gene Marquez, assistant special agent in charge for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said authorities had determined that the only bombs deployed in the attack were the two that detonated shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Monday.
Any unexploded device might have provided a clearer picture of what materials were used and how the bomb was assembled, furnishing leads in the case.
Obama: Americans ‘refuse to be terrorized’
Obama, briefed by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and other national security aides, said there is still much to be investigated in what was the worst attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
There is no sense of a motive and no indication as to who planted the bombs and detonated them, he said, condemning it as a “heinous and cowardly act.”
“Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror,” Obama 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 organization – foreign or domestic – or was the act of a malevolent individual.”
The president ordered the U.S. flag atop the White House lowered to half staff in memory of the victims.
He said the investigation into the bombings is just beginning.
“It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out,” Obama said. “We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice. We also know this: the American people refuse to be terrorized.”
Boehner: ‘We will come together’
Congressional leaders reflected with grief on the tragic loss of life, but had few immediate answers as to the nature of the attack.
The flag over the U.S. Capitol was at half staff and there were signs of increased security on the grounds today.
House Speaker John A. Boehner said words can’t express the “sorrow” lawmakers feel for the families that lost loved ones and for those who were wounded. The attack was a reminder “of just how vulnerable” we are, he said, “in this era of what I’ll call modern warfare.”
“We don’t know who perpetrated this or for what reasons, but I’m confident that we’ll get to the bottom of it,” he said at a news conference. “It’s a terrible day for all Americans, but we carry on in the American spirit. We will come together with grace and with strength.”
The U.S. Senate opened as usual with a prayer from Chaplain Barry Black, who said the bombings “remind us that we live in a dangerous world and that human life, regardless of the level of physical excellence, is fragile.”
Downtown off limits
A large area of downtown Boston remained cordoned off by police today as authorities pursued their probe. A stretch of Boylston Street and the blocks around it were closed to traffic as police searched for evidence of the identity of who placed the bombs packed with ball bearings to maximize casualties.
In Boston, dozens of police and national guard vehicles were parked around the cordoned-off area, which was empty of cars and pedestrians as authorities hunted for clues.
A banner that had marked the race’s finish line still hung over the deserted street.
Search turns to the public
U.S. investigators led by the FBI are poring over video and photographs from the widely watched marathon for clues to determine who is responsible for the bombs.
Because the Boston Marathon is run by 27,000 people and some 500,000 come to watch every year, officials expect plenty of visual evidence into what happened before and after two devices exploded as hundreds of runners streamed to the finish line at Copley Plaza in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
Some victims would require further surgery in the coming days, said Peter Fagenholz, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We’re seeing a lot of shrapnel injuries” from small metal debris, Fagenholz told reporters outside the hospital. Doctors treated 29 people, of whom eight were in a critical condition.
An 8-year-old boy was among the dead. A two-year-old was being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital for a head wound, the hospital said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is heading the investigation with help from city, state and federal officials, FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers said at an evening news conference.
CIA joins probe
Police have told people, including the thousands of visitors who came to participate in Boston’s signature sporting event, to stay inside and not congregate in open spaces.
In addition to domestic law enforcement, intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center have joined the investigation.
At least two, essentially contradictory, theories about who might be behind the explosions were under immediate consideration by investigators, officials told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
One theory, based at least in part upon the timing of the bombings – on the day when U.S. tax returns are due and also on the day of the Boston Marathon, which is customarily held on Patriots’ Day – implies that domestic right-wing extremists, such as anti-government anti-tax activists, could be behind the attacks.
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