Two bombs in New York were obvious 'act of terror' but no international link thus far, says New York state Governor

FBI agents review the crime scene of remnants of bomb debris on 23rd Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood on Sept 18, 2016.
FBI agents review the crime scene of remnants of bomb debris on 23rd Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood on Sept 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP
Mayor Bill de Blasio (centre) speaks as NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill (left) looks on during a press conference dealing with an explosion earlier in the evening on West 23rd Street on Sept 17, 2016, in New York.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (centre) speaks as NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill (left) looks on during a press conference dealing with an explosion earlier in the evening on West 23rd Street on Sept 17, 2016, in New York. PHOTO: AFP
FBI officials mark the ground near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York on Sept 18, 2016.
FBI officials mark the ground near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan, New York on Sept 18, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Members of the NYPD, FBI, ATF and other agencies investigate the the scene, following a late night explosion on West 23rd Street on Sept 18, 2016 in New York.
Members of the NYPD, FBI, ATF and other agencies investigate the the scene, following a late night explosion on West 23rd Street on Sept 18, 2016 in New York. PHOTO: AFP
A New York City Police Department truck tows a spherical chamber carrying a second explosive device from near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan on Sept 18, 2016.
A New York City Police Department truck tows a spherical chamber carrying a second explosive device from near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan on Sept 18, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK  (Reuters/AFP) -  A bomb that exploded in New York that wounded 29 people and a second bomb that did not detonate planted nearby were "obviously an act of terrorism", New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters today, but he said there was no evidence of international involvement.

 "It depends on your definition of terrorism. A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism, but it's not linked to international terrorism," he said, speaking of the pressure cooker bombs. 

"Whoever placed these bombs, we will find and they will be brought to justice," Cuomo told reporters the morning after the explosion that he said caused significant damage.

"At this time there is no evidence of an international terrorism connection," he added. "But it is very early in the investigation and it's just starting."

Investigators on Sunday sifted through blast remnants, examined video and scoured the scene of the explosion, on a commercial and residential street in  New  York City’s Chelsea district on Saturday night. It sent a deafening roar and a powerful shock wave through several blocks, wounding people with shrapnel and flying glass. All 29 victims were released from the hospital, officials said on Sunday.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded for any witnesses to provide tips and promised a security presence that would be “bigger than ever” for the United Nations General Assembly bringing together world leaders in Manhattan for six days starting on Tuesday.  

With so little known about the attack, officials said they would deploy an additional 1,000 state police and National Guard to sensitive areas such as transportation hubs.  

Federal Bureau of Investigation investigators will examine remnants of the bomb plus an unexploded device found four blocks away as well as a pipe bomb that exploded about 130 km away in  New Jersey on Saturday to see if they were connected, officials said.  Police recovered video from both scenes in Manhattan including images of the explosion itself, New  York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.  

New York police, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives converged on the site for their first daylight view of the site of the explosion, cordoning it off and placing dozens of evidence markers on the ground. Police closed several surrounding blocks to traffic.

“We are in the middle of a very complex post-blast investigation,” O’Neill said.

 No international group had claimed responsibility, and there were no obvious political targets on the block.

“It was intentional. It was a violent act. It was a certainly a criminal act. It was a bombing. That’s what we know,” said de Blasio, flanked by high-ranking officials of the FBI and the city police and fire departments.

“It could have been something personally motivated. We don’t know yet,” de Blasio said.

The blast happened the same day as a knife attack at a mall in central Minnesota when a man wounded nine people before he was shot to death by an off-duty police officer.

 

 In a statement on Sunday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said: “I strongly condemn the apparent terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey, and New  York.”

Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, referring to the Manhattan blast, said on Saturday: “We better get very tough, folks.”

The mayor and the governor both promised that New Yorkers would not be cowed and that apart from the street closures, life would continue as normal. New Yorkers who endured the Sept 11 attacks in 2001 and devastating Superstorm Sandy in 2012 said they were generally unperturbed.  

A sweep of the neighborhood following the blast turned up another device four blocks away consisting of a pressure cooker with wires attached to it and connected to a cell phone.  Pressure cooker bombs were used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260.  

The New Jersey explosion came from a pipe bomb, officials said. A U.S. official familiar with information circulating inside the government said the motive remained unknown and insufficient evidence had been gathered to link the two New York bombs. There was no evidence to connect them to the  New Jersey blast, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Almost anybody could have fabricated these bombs and used cellphones as timed detonators,” said another U.S. official familiar with the inquiry. “There are instructions all over the internet, and the crudity, positioning, and relative ineffectiveness of these does not suggest that a more sophisticated group played any role in this.”

The FBI would examine all three devices at its special crime laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, Cuomo said, but city officials said the police bomb squad still had possession of the unexploded device as of midday on Sunday.