Authorities investigating blast that injured 29 people are determining whether it was linked to any terror organisation
An explosion rocked the bustling Chelsea neighbourhood of
Manhattan on Saturday night, injuring at least 29 people, and authorities said
they were investigating the blast as a criminal act not immediately linked to
any terror organization.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials
said investigators had ruled out a natural gas leak as the origin of the blast,
but they stopped short of calling it a bombing and declined to specify
precisely what they believed may have triggered the explosion.
Police said a sweep of the neighbourhood following the blast
turned up a possible "secondary device" a short distance away.
CNN, citing law enforcement sources, reported that it
appeared to be a pressure cooker with wires attached to it and connected to
what resembled a cell phone. A piece of paper with writing on it was found
nearby, according to CNN's account.
Remaining circumspect about the exact nature of the actual
explosion, De Blasio said early indications were that it was "an
intentional act." He added that the site of the blast, outside on a major
thoroughfare in the fashionable New York City district, was being treated as a
"There is no evidence at this point of a terror
connection," the mayor said at a news conference about three hours after
the blast. He added, "There is no specific and credible threat against New
York City at this point in time from any terror organisation."
The mayor also said investigators did not believe there was
any link to a pipe bomb that exploded earlier on Saturday in the New Jersey
beach town of Seaside Park. No injuries were reported in that blast, in a
plastic trash can along the route of a charity foot race. Authorities said they
believed it to be a deliberate act.
But a US official said that a Joint Terrorism Task Force, an
interagency group of federal, state and local officials, was called to
investigate the Chelsea blast, suggesting authorities have not ruled out the
possibility of a terror connection.
A joint task force also took the lead in investigating the
New Jersey incident.
One person seriously injured
A law enforcement source said an initial investigation
suggested the Chelsea explosion occurred in a dumpster but the cause was still
undetermined. CNN cited law enforcement sources as saying they believed an
improvised explosive device caused the blast.
President Barack Obama, who was attending a congressional
dinner in Washington, "has been apprised of the explosion in New York
City, the cause of which remains under investigation," a White House
official said. "The president will be updated as additional information
becomes available," the official added.
New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said 29 people
were hurt in the blast, and 24 of them had been taken to area hospitals,
including one person he described as seriously injured. The rest suffered
various cuts, scrapes and other minor injuries from shattered glass and other
debris, Nigro said.
The explosion, described by one neighbour as
"deafening," happened outside the Associated Blind Housing facility
at 135 W. 23rd Street. The facility provides housing, training and other
services for the blind.