NEW YORK, Sept 18, (Agencies): New Yorkers who have endured the Sept 11 attacks and the devastating superstorm of 2012 were generally unperturbed by a Saturday night blast in Manhattan that injured 29 people. “For people who live in New York City, there is always the sense that something terrible is going to happen,” Karen McWharter, 61, said on Sunday as she set up a booth to sell vintage clothing at a street fair on the Upper West Side.
“You just always adopt a ‘que sera’ attitude.” Authorities said the explosion in the busy Chelsea district, not far from the landmark Flatiron Building, was intentional but with no apparent links to international terrorism, although it was still early in the investigation. FBI investigators were searching the scene of the blast and examining remnants of the bomb, as well as an unexploded device found four blocks away and a third device that exploded in New Jersey on Saturday to see if they were connected, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Many of those injured were treated for minor injuries including shrapnel wounds but police listed one injury as serious. Visitors to the city interviewed by Reuters appeared more rattled by the news and said they were surprised at how calmly New Yorkers were taking the blast. A bomb that tore through an upscale New York neighborhood injuring 29 people was an act of terror, the state governor said Sunday, but the motive is unknown and there has been no claim of responsibility.
Heavily armed police and National Guard soldiers deployed throughout New York as the city of 8.4 million prepared to welcome world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Monday.
The attack happened late Saturday in Chelsea, one of Manhattan’s most fashionable districts packed with bars, restaurants and luxury residential buildings. Police discovered a second bomb planted four blocks away, which was safely defused and is currently being analyzed, officers said.
The bombing came as a jihadist-linked news agency claimed that an Islamic State group “soldier” carried out a stabbing attack in a US mall that left eight people injured late Saturday in the state of Minnesota. Local police said the attacker “made some references to Allah,” but the motive was unclear. The attacker was shot dead by an off-duty police officer. There was no suggestion it was linked to the New York bombing. “A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism, but it’s not linked to international terrorism,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Sunday as he visited the crime scene.
“In other words, we find no ISIS connection, etcetera,” said Cuomo in reference to IS, which is based in Iraq and Syria. New York police chief James O’Neill said no individual or group had yet claimed responsibility. O’Neill said he could not say with a “100 percent degree of certainty” where the blast originated. US media reported that it was planted in a dumpster on 23rd Street where major construction work is taking place. A hot line has been set up for tips. Police have a video of the bombing and were searching for anyone seen in the area before the explosion. “We know it’s a very serious incident, but we have a lot more work to do to be able to say what kind of motivation was behind this,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “Was it a political motivation, a personal motivation. What was it? We do not know that yet,” he added, calling on residents to be vigilant.
FBI official William Sweeney said federal investigators would be pouring through online traffic, individuals and organizations. “We will look at everything,” he told the news conference. “We’ll look at social networks, at all the incoming tips and leads. Everything that comes in gets a look. We don’t discard anything.” New York will see a stepped up security presence, with an additional nearly 1,000 state police and National Guard deployed to airports, bus terminals and subway stations, officials said. The explosion on 23rd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, caused “significant” damage, shattering glass and shrapnel across the street, but there is no structural damage to any buildings.
Minnesota police said Sunday they were investigating a shopping mall stabbing spree that injured eight, but could not comment on a claim that the Islamic State group was behind the attack. A man who made “some references to Allah” stabbed and injured eight people in a shopping mall in the city of St Cloud late Saturday before he was shot dead by an off-duty officer, police said. The suspect “asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he assaulted them,” Blair Anderson, the St Cloud police chief, told journalists.
But he emphasized that the assailant’s motivation remained unclear. “Whether that was a terrorist attack or not, I’m not willing to say that right now because we just don’t know,” he said. Local officials had no immediate response to a claim by the IS-linked news agency Amaq that the assailant was “a soldier of the Islamic State.”
A St Cloud police officer told AFP on Sunday that the department was actively investigating the attack, but had no further information for public release and had no immediate plans for further news briefings. Speaking shortly after midnight, Chief Anderson said the armed suspect entered the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud — a city of about 67,000 people some 70 miles (110-km) northwest of Minneapolis — and attacked at least eight people. The lone suspect was wearing a private security uniform and had at least one knife, and “made some references to Allah,” the police chief said.
“That suspect was confronted by an off-duty police officer and summarily shot and killed,” he said. Anderson said the eight injured people were taken to a hospital. All but one was later released. The suspect had a history of minor traffic violations, Anderson said, adding that police do not currently believe the attack was connected to any other incident.
Elsewhere, all beaches have reopened in the Jersey Shore town where a pipe bomb exploded shortly before thousands of runners were to participate in a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. Officials won’t say if they believe the Saturday afternoon explosion in Seaside Park was terror-related or had any connection to a bomb blast in a New York City neighborhood Saturday night. Appearing Sunday on CNN, Gov.
Chris Christie said state police have “some promising leads” but no suspects. Newark FBI spokesman Michael Whitaker said investigators continue to canvass Seaside Park and conduct interviews. He said travel restrictions imposed after the blast have been lifted. No one was injured in the Jersey Shore explosion. The Manhattan blast injured 29 people. They have been treated and released from a hospital. The FBI has taken over as the lead agency in the investigation. But officials would not say whether they believe the incident was terror-related or if they suspected participants in the third annual Semper Five run were targeted. Brad Cohen, the acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Newark, declined to discuss the matter at length during a brief news conference staged Saturday evening. He also declined to take questions from reporters, citing the “active, ongoing” investigation.