White House treating Boston marathon attacks as ’act of terror’

FBI hunting those behind twin bombings that killed three and wounded 170 others


The White House has said yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people including an 8-year-old boy and injured 176 others in the worst attack on US soil since the September 11th attacks, are being treated as "an act of terror".

President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible would "feel the full weight of justice."

Eight children under the age of 15, including a two-year-old boy with a head injury and a nine-year-old girl with a leg trauma, were being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital.

"When these kids came in ... they were just so badly hurt, just covered with singed hair and in so much pain, it was just gut-wrenching," said David Mooney, the director of the trauma program at Boston Children's Hospital. "Pulling nails out of a little girl's flesh is just awful." At least 10 people had limbs amputated as a result of their injuries, officials at hospitals said.

An apartment in Boston was one focus of a wide-ranging police investigation today as authorities pursued clues into who placed the bombs packed with ball bearings to maximise casualties.

An early lead in the investigation the apartment search ended with security sources saying that a Saudi Arabian student injured in the blast was likely to be cleared of suspicion. In Washington, US Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano said there was no indication that the bomb blasts were part of a broader plot.

A stretch of Boylston Street near the race's finish line and the blocks around it were closed to traffic as police searched for evidence.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said today no additional explosive devices were found on the scene of the attack. The FBI said investigators will be working for days at the scene as they searched for leads.

Police raised the death toll to three at a press conference yesterday evening. The second of three people killed in the attack was identified today as Krystle Campbell, said the mayor of Medford, Massachusetts, the city where the 29-year-old woman had grown up.

Mayor Michael McGlynn said he had confirmed the death with Ms Campbell's father, William Campbell. Earlier, the family of 8-year-old Martin Richard confirmed their son's death in the incident. The identity of the third person killed has not been released. Hospital officials said that at least 17 people had critical injuries.

At least one bomb, and possibly both, were built using pressure cookers as the superstructure, black powder or gunpowder as the explosive and ball bearings as additional shrapnel, according to current and former counter-terrorism officials briefed on the matter.

The sources, who asked not to be identified, said instructions on how to design such bombs are available on the Internet.

"Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror," Mr Obama said in the White House briefing room. "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 annual Boston Marathon had about 23,000 runners this year while an estimated 500,000 people watched the race. The marathon’s website said that 108 Irish citizens participated in the run. There are no indications that any Irish citizens were killed or injured.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which said this morning it has not received any requests for consular assistance in Boston, has advised anyone concerned about relatives that may have been caught up in the incident to contact them on 01-4082000.

In a response reminiscent of the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on New York, Boston went into lock-down last night. The public was advised to stay indoors and to avoid congregating in large crowds.

Emergency services shut off the blocks around the finishing line last night in the affluent Back Bay area of the city. Surrounding streets were deserted.

Rows of uncollected participant bags and unused heat blankets were gathered in nearby streets.

Police said there were no suspects and that it was not clear what the motives were for the attack. Officials in Washington said nobody had claimed responsibility.

The Pakistani Taliban today denied any involvement in the bombings, the Associated Press reported, citing spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan. The group provided training for the 2010 failed car bombing in New York's Time Square.

Fire department officials said that a blaze at the JFK Library that broke out around the same time as the marathon blasts and were thought to be linked was unlikely to be connected.

The injured were being treated for broken bones, shrapnel wounds and ruptured eardrums at hospitals across the city. “This is something I’ve never seen in my 25 years here… this amount of carnage in the civilian population,” said Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This is what we expect from war.”

Additional reporting: wires

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