Explosions in New Jersey and New York on Saturday quickly drew the involvement of FBI terrorism investigators, as the latter blast injured dozens and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted there was no terror threat against the Big Apple.
The first blast occurred at the start of the Seaside Semper Fi Marine Corps charity 5K in Seaside Park, N.J., as a pipe bomb detonated in a garbage can. No one was injured at this incident, but the race was canceled.
“Race officials working closely with local authorities made the decision to cancel the race and evacuate the area,” race organizers said in a statement, thanking “all those who showed up today in support of our military for their patience and understanding.”
The race was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at Ocean Avenue and D Street, but was delayed due to snafus with runners’ registration, the Asbury Park Press reported. Thus, the start line area was largely empty when the device detonated at 9:35 a.m. About 3,000 people were gathered around the registration area.
Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, said three pipe bombs were inside the trash can but only one detonated. “If it was just a matter of minutes, in terms of difference, there would have been a good number of people running past that explosive device,” he said.
Citing federal law enforcement officials, CNN reported that the bombs were “rudimentary” and set on a timer.
At about 8:30 p.m., an outdoor explosion was witnessed by officers on patrol in front of 131 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement.
“As of this time, there is no evidence to indicate that this explosion is a result of any natural gas cause. Again, the exact nature and cause of this explosion has not yet been determined,” O’Neill said Saturday night. “As of the most recent information, there have been 27 injuries reported. One of these injuries may be considered serious. The Fire Department is currently assessing the extent of any possible structural damage resulting from this explosion.”
Most of those injured were hospitalized, the NYFD said. The number of wounded was later updated to 29.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted after the explosion: “Investigation is ongoing. Though we believe this was an intentional act, there is no credible terror threat against NYC at this moment.”
De Blasio told reporters there was “no specific evidence” of links between the NYC attack and New Jersey bomb.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state officials are “coordinating our response with federal and New York City authorities, and full state resources have been made available for this investigation.”
“We are closely monitoring the situation and urge New Yorkers to, as always, remain calm and vigilant,” Cuomo said. “Those traveling in or through the area should be advised of closed sidewalks and roadway, and check MTA.info for subway and bus service alerts. As a reminder, the PATH station at 23rd Street is closed for previously-announced weekend closures.”
“We are in close contact with health providers to monitor the extent of the injuries and will provide information as it becomes available.”
A White House official said President Obama “has been apprised of the explosion in New York City, the cause of which remains under investigation.”
“The president will be updated as additional information becomes available,” the official added.
Then news broke that another device had been found just four blocks from the crime scene: a pressure cooker with wiring and an apparent cell phone detonator, the Associated Press reported, in a plastic bag on West 27th Street between 6th and 7th avenues.
The NYPD said the area was not being evacuated, but the department tweeted a message asking residents on the block to “stay away from windows facing 27th Street until we clear the area of a suspicious package.” The police called it “a precautionary measure only.”
— CNN (@CNN) September 18, 2016
The May issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine, which gave the Boston Bombers their pressure cooker recipe, featured step-by-step new recipes on how to build a parcel bomb, a magnetic car bomb, and a door-trap bomb. It also contained what could be an Election Day reference: “Hidden bomb, car bomb, pressure cooker, assassinations,” read a checklist, followed by “make your vote count.”
An ISIS video released in June ripped off mock-up footage from an Al-Jazeera segment on terrorism to portray a man getting ready for a suicide bombing in Times Square. The video then showed news footage of the ABC News building banner in New York scrolling a headline about the November Paris attacks.
Also that month, when the terror group was taking a victory lap over Omar Mateen’s attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the ISIS-linked Al-Battar Media Foundation suggested jihadists target movie theaters, hospitals, airports, trains, amusement parks and restaurants. Lone jihadists shouldn’t “shy away from targeting the so-called civilians… the so-called innocent people,” the statement said.
A new English-language ISIS magazine this month said “the blood of the disbelievers is halal, and killing them is a form of worship to Allah,” thus jihadists should expand their targets to include “the businessman riding to work in a taxicab, the young adults (post-pubescent ‘children’) engaged in sports activities in the park, and the old man waiting in line to buy a sandwich.”
UPDATE 3:30 a.m.: CNN reported that a third suspicious device was being investigated at West 28th Street and 5th Avenue. Police investigated and determined it to be a false alarm.
NYPD shut down traffic eastbound and westbound from West 14th Street to West 32nd Street and from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue. “The closures are in effect until further notice,” the department said.