usa

Five detained over New York blast

Terror links investigated but nothing to suggest New York bombing, Minnesota stabbing or New Jersey blast were coordinated

AFP
11:08 September 19, 2016
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New York: US federal authorities have reportedly detained five persons with possible links to the New York explosion.

New York was on high alert after an explosion rocked the Chelsea district of Manhattan injuring 29 people, one seriously, on Saturday night.

As reports emerged of the five detained in New York, the FBI's New York branch tweeted that no one had been charged.

"We did a traffic stop of a vehicle of interest in the investigation," the FBI tweet said. "No one has been charged with any crime. The investigation is continuing."

New York media said the five passengers were in custody for questioning. The vehicle was stopped around 9.30pm heading east on the Belt Parkway from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects the New York city boroughs Brooklyn and Staten Island, The Telegraph reported.

The New York Daily News reported that weapons were found in the car.

A mystery caller telephoned police hours after a series of bombs were found in Manhattan to warn that there would be more attacks, a local newspaper has reported.

Thousands of people were milling around one of Manhattan's most fashionable areas when the blast ripped through the area shortly after 8.30 p.m. local time.

The blast is understood to have originated from a device placed in a pressure cooker outside the Associated Blind Housing facility at 135 West 23rd Street. A second device was found four blocks away on West 27th Street. 

Both bombs in New York were filled with shrapnel and made with pressure cookers, flip phones, Christmas lights and explosive compound, The New York Times reported late Sunday, citing law enforcement officials.

Earlier in the day on Saturday there was an explosion at Seaside Park, New Jersey, which was timed to disrupt a Marine Corps charity run.

An official told Fox News on Sunday that the bombs in New Jersey and New York were "from the same person" and the devices in both explosions included mobile phones. 

Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor, said the blast in Chelsea was an "intentional act" but he insisted that there was no credible terrorist threat to the city and there was no link with the New Jersey explosion.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force was called in to investigate the Chelsea blasts well as the New Jersey incident.

US probes three attacks

Three attacks carried out in the United States on a single day — a New York bombing, a Minnesota mass stabbing and a New Jersey pipe bomb blast — were under investigation Sunday for potential terror links.

Authorities say there is no evidence that the attacks were coordinated but their timing in under 24 hours raises fears about security — already a major issue in the country’s deeply divisive presidential election battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Twenty-nine people were injured when a bomb exploded in New York’s upmarket Chelsea neighbourhood on Saturday night, damaging buildings, shattering glass and sending shrapnel flying across the street.

A second bomb was uncovered by police four blocks away and defused safely, before being sent to the FBI in Virginia for forensic examination.

Both bombs were filled with shrapnel and made with pressure cookers, flip phones, Christmas lights and explosive compound, the New York Times reported late Sunday, citing law enforcement officials.

CNN reported that officials had obtained surveillance videos showing the same man near the site of the explosion and where the undetonated device was found, according to “multiple” local and federal law enforcement sources.

Hours earlier, less than 160 kilometres south in New Jersey, a pipe bomb exploded in a trash can on the route of a Marine Corps run before the start of the race, causing no injuries but forcing its cancellation.

In the Midwest, an assailant reported to be Somali-American went on a stabbing spree in a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, injuring nine people before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer.

US authorities said the motive of all three attacks was unclear, but elected officials quickly identified them as terror-related.

“If you look at a number of these incidents, you can call them whatever you want: they are terrorism though,” New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, a member of the Trump campaign, told CNN.

Obama arrives in New York

“A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism, but it’s not linked to international terrorism,” Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday after touring the scene of the explosion in Chelsea.

“In other words, we find no Isis [Daesh] connection, et cetera,” said Cuomo. But he also stressed the lack of an international terror link was preliminary.

New York went on full alert, deploying nearly 1,000 extra state police and National Guardsmen to airports, bus terminals and subway stations as President Barack Obama arrived in the city ahead of Tuesday’s opening of the UN General Assembly.

There was no claim for the bombings in Manhattan or New Jersey, but a jihadist-linked news agency, Amaq, claimed that a Daesh “soldier” carried out the Minnesota stabbings.

Daesh has repeatedly called for attacks on countries in the US-led coalition bombing the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

“This should steel our resolve to protect our country and defeat Isis {Daesh} and other terrorist groups,” said Clinton.

The Democratic nominee, whose lead in the polls has taken a dip, condemned what she called “apparent terrorist attacks.”

Trump, who described the blast in New York a bombing more than 12 hours before officials or police, tweeted his “best wishes and condolences to all of the families and victims of the horrible bombing.”

In Minnesota, FBI agent Rick Thornton confirmed that federal agents were investigating the stabbing as “a potential act of terrorism,” as local media identified the suspect as a 22-year-old Somali-American.

‘References to Allah’

Police confirmed that the assailant asked some victims whether they were Muslim before attacking them and made “references to Allah.”

While all 29 people who were injured in the New York bombing have been released from the hospital, three of those hurt in Minnesota remain hospitalized, officials said.

“Was it a political motivation, a personal motivation? What was it?” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “We do not know,” he added, calling on residents to be vigilant.

Fifteen years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, officials stress that the United States is safer from terror plots that originate from overseas but more at risk from the lone-wolf attack perpetrated by individuals who may be inspired by Daesh or Al Qaida propaganda.

“In many of these cases we don’t know until two, three or four days later whether or not there is a terrorist link,” warned New York Congressman Peter King in a CBS television interview.