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Boston Marathon explosions: no one in custody yet

world Updated: Apr 16, 2013 13:39 IST

AP
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Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 80 others in a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs at the world's oldest and most prestigious marathon, authorities said.


A senior US intelligence official said two other explosive devices were found near the end of the 26.2 miles (42 kilometers) course.

"They just started bringing people in with no limbs," said runner Tim Davey, of Virginia. He said he and his wife, Lisa, tried to keep their children's eyes shielded from the gruesome scene inside a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners, but "they saw a lot."

There was no word on the motive or who may have launched the attack, and police said no suspect was in custody. Authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The twin blasts at the Marathon took place almost simultaneously and about 100 yards (meters) apart, tearing limbs off numerous people, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending smoke rising over the street.

Some 23,000 runners took part in the race, which winds up in the heart of central Boston near Copley Square, near the Prudential Tower and the Boston Public Library.

Boston police commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know whether the bombs were planted in mailboxes or trash cans.

He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft from within 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) of the site.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the explosions by homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco. Obama also told Mayor Tom Menino and governor Deval Patrick that his administration would provide whatever support was needed, the White House said.

Obama said in televised remarks that the United States does not know "who did this or why" but vowed that whoever is responsible "will feel the full weight of justice."

He said: "We will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable."

Obama made his remarks Monday evening from the White House about three hours after the explosions. The president had been in touch with federal law enforcement and Massachusetts officials in the aftermath of the explosions.

The Secret Service reacted cautiously to the blasts, expanding the security perimeter around the White House.

In Boston, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy presidential library a few miles (kilometers) away from the marathon's finish line. The police commissioner said it may have been caused by an incendiary device but it didn't appear to be related to the bombings.

"There are people who are really, really bloody," said Laura McLean, a runner from Toronto, who was in the medical tent being treated for dehydration when she was pulled out to make room for victims.

About four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.

By that point, more than 17,000 of the runners had finished the race, but thousands of others were farther back along the course.

The Boston Police Department said two people were killed. Hospitals reported at least 82 injured, at least eight of them critically.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the two other explosive devices found nearby were being dismantled. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.

A woman who was a few feet from the second bomb, Brighid Wall, 35, of Duxbury, said that when it exploded, runners and spectators froze, unsure of what to do. Her husband threw their children to the ground, lay on top of them and another man lay on top of them and said, "Don't get up, don't get up."

After a minute or so without another explosion, Wall said, she and her family headed to a Starbucks and out the back door through an alley. Around them, the windows off the bars and restaurants were blown out.

She said she saw six to eight people bleeding profusely, including one man who was kneeling, dazed, with blood coming down his head. Another person was on the ground covered in blood and not moving.

"My ears are zinging. Their ears are zinging. It was so forceful. It knocked us to the ground."

Competitors and race volunteers were crying as they fled the chaos. Authorities went onto the course to carry away the injured while race stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site.

Roupen Bastajian, a 35-year-old state trooper from neighboring Rhode Island, had just finished the race when they put the heat blanket wrap on him and he heard the blasts.

"I started running toward the blast. And there were people all over the floor," he said. "We started grabbing tourniquets and started tying legs. A lot of people amputated. ... At least 25 to 30 people have at least one leg missing, or an ankle missing, or two legs missing."

Smoke rose from the blasts, fluttering through the national flags lining the route. Blood stained the pavement in the popular shopping and tourist area known as the Back Bay.

Runners who had not finished the race were diverted straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder directed the full resources of the Justice Department be deployed to investigate and a department official said Holder has spoken with FBI director Robert Mueller. The official said the US attorney for Massachusetts's office was coordinating the Justice Department's response with the FBI and other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities.

Cities worldwide stepped up security following the explosions.

In Britain, police said they were reviewing security plans for Sunday's London Marathon, the next major international marathon. Thousands of people compete in the London Marathon every year, thronging the city's streets. London is also considered a top target for international terrorists.

A London Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed Monday that police are working with marathon officials to review security plans for Sunday's event. The London race's chief executive, Nick Bitel, expressed shock and sadness about the situation in Boston, saying "it is a very sad day for athletics and for our friends in marathon running."

In New York City, police spokesman Paul Browne said that critical response teams are deployed around the city. Officials were stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations.

Police at three major Los Angeles area airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, were in a "heightened state of vigilance," with increased patrols to make it visible that more police were on duty Monday, said chief of Airport Police Patrick Gannon.

Race day got started with 26 seconds of silence in honor of the victims of the December school massacre in Connecticut. A little more than 2 hours later, the lead runners passed the Mile 26 marker, which was decorated with the Newtown, Connecticut, seal and dedicated to the memory of those killed there.

Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

The annual marathon attracts more than 500,000 spectators. It takes place on Patriot's Day, a state holiday that celebrates the evacuation of Boston by the British in the American Revolution.

Spectator Cherie Falgoust was waiting for her husband, who was running the race.

"I was expecting my husband any minute," she said. "I don't know what this building is ... it just blew. Just a big bomb, a loud boom, and then glass everywhere. Something hit my head. I don't know what it was. I just ducked."