Thursday 18 July 2019

Fears Austin bombings are test run for a bigger attack

An employee talks to a police officer after she was evacuated at a FedEx distribution centre in Schertz, Texas. Photo: AP
An employee talks to a police officer after she was evacuated at a FedEx distribution centre in Schertz, Texas. Photo: AP

Harriet Alexander

A series of bombings that have shaken the Texan city of Austin could be a trial run for a bigger attack, a former FBI adviser has warned, as police hunt for clues after a fifth device exploded early yesterday.

Donald Trump, the US president, called the perpetrator "sick" and said all resources were being devoted to tracking the person or persons down.

He said: "This is obviously a very sick individual, or individuals. And we'll get to the bottom of it. It's disgraceful. These are sick people and we have to find them as soon as possible."

A FedEx employee escaped serious injury yesterday when a package exploded at a distribution centre in San Antonio, 130km south of Austin. Brian Manley, chief of police for Austin, said the package had been bound for the city.

William McManus, chief of police for San Antonio, said a second suspicious package at the facility later yesterday had been removed. Hours later police were called to a FedEx site in Austin after reports of another suspicious package.

Michelle Lee, FBI spokesman for San Antonio, said they were linking the FedEx explosion to four other Austin bombings earlier this month.

Officers from multiple agencies are working on the case amid fears that, as time passes, those behind the attacks would get bolder.

Randall Rogan, a Wake Forest University professor and an expert on forensic linguistic analysis, said he thought the perpetrator might soon make contact with the police or release a communique or manifesto.

Mr Rogan warned that the complexity of the fourth bombing, triggered with a tripwire on Sunday, might suggest it was a test run for something bigger.

Robert Taylor, a former police officer and now a criminologist at the University of Texas, Dallas, said eventually there would be a break in the case. "Something will come up somewhere. It will be a fingerprint on an envelope or DNA from saliva or a unique kind of detonator, or someone will just blab in a bar," he said.

Police chief Manley added: "Clearly we are dealing with a serial bomber."

He appealed to the perpetrator to make contact.

Authorities are at a loss over the motive behind the bombings, which killed two members of the same predominantly black church - Anthony House (39), who died on March 2 when he picked up a package on the front porch of his home, and 17-year-old Draylen Mason, who died 10 days later.

A 75-year-old Hispanic woman was seriously injured when she picked up a package on her front porch the same day.

At first police suspected a racial motive, but that changed on Sunday when a fourth bomb exploded and injured two white male cyclists.

The bombings have cast a shadow over the annual South by Southwest festival of media and music, which drew to a close on Sunday having brought 300,000 people to the city.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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