Bombings that killed three people, injured scores and sent smoke and flame soaring near the Boston Marathon’s finish line were an act of terror, authorities said.
The explosions near Copley Square occurred as recreational runners were finishing about 2:50 p.m. local time on Monday, police said.
Runners fell to the blood-spattered ground and one man walked away with clothes in tatters as white and orange fumes billowed into the air. Five unexploded devices were found, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two people briefed on the investigation.
“This is the sort of carnage you expect to see in war,” Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where victims were taken, said at a news briefing.
Boston police have no suspect in custody, Comr. Ed Davis said at a news briefing.
Authorities were questioning a foreigner with an expired student visa, though he isn’t a suspect or “person of interest,” said a federal law-enforcement official not authorized to speak because the investigation is continuing.
“We still do not know who did this or why,” President Barack Obama said in a briefing at the White House. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
The United States had no information that any foreign group was planning an attack on Monday, said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee.
“We’ve known for some time that a public event where there were a lot of people would be subject to this possibility,” she said.
Near the bombing scene, Dan O’Gara, who was working at Marathon Sports, a running store on Boylston Street, said three injured people were brought into the store with cuts on their arms and legs. Employees bandaged them with shirts.
“I took a peek out the window and I could see at least four or five people on the ground bleeding,” O’Gara said.
The blasts at the race, which attracts about 25,000 runners and 500,000 spectators each year, follow several bombing attempts since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old man from Bangladesh, pleaded guilty in February to planning to bomb the New York Federal Reserve last year. In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for driving a car containing an explosive into New York’s Times Square, and Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to supporting al-Qaeda and plotting in 2009 to attack New York subways.
Nor was today’s attack the first bombing of a major US sporting event.
A blast at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 26, 1996, killed one person and injured more than 100. Eric Robert Rudolph, an anti-abortion activist, admitted detonating the 40-pound pipe bomb.
The Boston Marathon, first run in 1897, is considered the most prestigious in the US and occurs every Patriot’s Day, a citywide holiday celebrating the first battles of the American Revolution. Its 42-kilometer course runs from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.
John Hanlon, a 38-year-old Dorchester, Massachusetts, resident who was with his wife and two of their children near the finish line, said the blasts happened at about the “thickest time” for runners finishing the race. The elite athletes crossed the line hours earlier.
“People were screaming and grabbing their families and getting the hell out of there,” he said.
Walter Antos, of Boulder, Colorado, said the explosion about a block away was “100 times louder than thunder.”
Phil Kirkpatrick, a 59-year-old from Nashville, was watching his girlfriend race when the explosions went off and saw a man with his foot blown off in a medical tent.
“I was crawling on the sidewalk, and my cell phone blew out of my hand,” he said.