Five potential bombs were discovered overnight near a New Jersey train station, one of which blew up yesterday as a bomb squad robot tried to disable it, after a weekend of attacks and security alerts in the US.
The devices were found late on Sunday, just one day after a pressure-cooker bomb packed with shrapnel exploded in New York City’s Chelsea district, wounding 29 people, and a pipe bomb went off along the route of a New Jersey charity run without hurting anyone.
Investigators were probing possible links between the attacks, which came as world leaders begin converging on New York for today’s annual meeting of the UN General Assembly.
While officials described the attacks as deliberate, criminal acts and said they were investigating them as potential acts of terrorism, they stopped short of characterizing the motivation behind any of them until more evidence is uncovered.
In the latest incident, five potential explosive devices were found in a backpack left in a trash can near a train station and a bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Mayor Christian Bollwage told reporters.
After cordoning off the area, a bomb squad used a robot to cut a wire to try to disable the device, but inadvertently set off an explosion, he said, adding that no one was hurt.
“I can imagine that if all five of them went off at the same time, that the loss of life could have been enormous if there was an event going on,” Bollwage said.
The incident took place less than 24km southwest of Manhattan.
Two men discovered the backpack and reported it to police after they saw “wires and a pipe” in the package, Bollwage said.
No suspects were immediately identified in the New York and New Jersey attacks, or the latest incident in Elizabeth.
A similar, unexploded device to the one that went off in Chelsea on Saturday was found a few blocks away later that night.
CNN reported that police had reviewed surveillance video showing a man leaving both devices earlier that day.
No international militant group has claimed responsibility for the New York blast, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the act of detonating a bomb in a crowded area of Manhattan “is obviously an act of terrorism.”
About 135 international leaders are expected to attend this week’s event at the UN, and city officials said they had bolstered an already heavy security force with 1,000 more uniformed police officers and US National Guard members.
FBI experts have examined remnants of the Chelsea device, the second one found nearby and and the pipe bomb that blew up at the charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, 130km south of New York City.
“The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn’t point to any group that’s been developing [improvised explosive devices] for years,” said an official involved in the investigation, who requested anonymity to discuss the inquiry.
The official added that the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned the blasts were just a test of New York’s security.
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