Monday 26 September 2016

'No link to Isil' as bomb hits busy gay area in New York

Karen Matthews New York

Published 19/09/2016 | 02:30

FBI officials record the spray of debris and shrapnel across the ground at the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. Photo: Rashid Umar Abbasi
FBI officials record the spray of debris and shrapnel across the ground at the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. Photo: Rashid Umar Abbasi

An explosion that rocked a crowded Manhattan neighbourhood, injuring 29 people, does not appear to have international links but is still being categorised as terrorism.

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New York governor Andrew Cuomo said 1,000 additional law enforcement officers were being deployed after the Saturday night blast in Chelsea, a primarily residential neighbourhood on Manhattan's west side that is known for its art galleries and large gay population.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (2-R) look over the mangled remains of the dumpster that bore the brunt of the blast. Photo: REUTERS/Justin Lane/Pool
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (2-R) look over the mangled remains of the dumpster that bore the brunt of the blast. Photo: REUTERS/Justin Lane/Pool

"We're not going to let them win," Mr Cuomo said at the scene. "We're not going to let them instil fear."

The Democratic governor said the preliminary investigation did not appear to show a link to international terror, and he noted that no terror group had taken credit for it.

"A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism, but it's not linked to international terrorism," Mr Cuomo said.

A law enforcement official said a second device that officers investigated four streets from the scene appeared to be a pressure cooker attached to wiring and a mobile phone. The official said the device was found inside a plastic bag on West 27th Street. The device was removed with a robot and taken away.

A firefighter pulls a stretcher near a blocked-off road close to the site of the bomb explosion. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/Getty Images
A firefighter pulls a stretcher near a blocked-off road close to the site of the bomb explosion. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/Getty Images

The law enforcement official also said that the explosion appeared to have come from a construction toolbox in front of a building.

The blast happened on West 23rd Street, in front of a residence for the blind, near a major thoroughfare with many restaurants and a supermarket. Witnesses said the explosion at about 8.30pm local time blew out the windows of businesses and scattered debris.

Mr Cuomo said all the injured taken to hospital after the blast had been released. Most had been hit with glass or debris.

Rattled

Some New York City subway routes were affected by the explosion, which rattled some New Yorkers and visitors on the heels of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Chris Gonzalez, visiting from Dallas, was eating with friends at a restaurant in the area.

"We felt it. We heard it," Mr Gonzalez said. "It wasn't like jolting or anything. Everyone just went quiet."

Rudy Alcide, a bouncer at Vanity Nightclub at 21st Street and 6th Avenue, said at first he thought something large had fallen.

"It was an extremely loud noise. Everything was shaking, the windows were shaking," he said. "It was extremely loud, almost like thunder but louder."

The FBI and Homeland Security officials, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the task force responsible for arson and explosives, swarmed the scene.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said the nation needs to support its emergency services staff and "pray for the victims".

"We have to let this investigation unfold," she said.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump moved ahead of New York City officials when he declared a "bomb went off" before officials had released details. He made the announcement minutes after stepping off his plane in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"I must tell you that just before I got off the plane a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows what's going on," Mr Trump said.

He continued: "But boy we are living in a time - we better get very tough, folks. We better get very, very tough. It's a terrible thing that's going on in our world, in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant."

The Manhattan blast came hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners were due to participate in a charity 5km race to benefit marines and sailors. The run was cancelled.

Irish Independent

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