The Chelsea district of Manhattan, New York was rocked by an explosion on Saturday night, injuring at least 29 people in what authorities say is a deliberate criminal act, though connections to terror have yet to be found.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials have ruled out the possibility of a gas leak as the cause of the blast, but stopped short of calling it a bombing and declined to give comments as to what they believe triggered the explosion.
“There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection”, de Blasio said at a news conference three hours after the blast. “There is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time from any terror organization”.
24-year-old Neha Jain, who lives in the neighborhood, was watching a movie at home when she heard a boom and everything suddenly shook. She told Reuters: “Pictures on my wall fell, the window curtain came flying as if there was a big gush of wind”.
“Then we could smell smoke. We went downstairs to see what happened, and firemen immediately told us to go back”.
Police who swept the neighborhood following the explosion had found a possible ‘secondary device’ four blocks away from the blast site consisting of a pressure cooker attached to wires and was connected to a mobile phone.
Officer Christopher Pisano said residents of the area were advised to avoid staying near windows facing the street as a precaution before the device was safely moved to a police firing range for further investigation.
New York police Lieutenant Thomas Antonetti said as of Sunday morning that they were still in the process of determining whether the item was an explosive device and had not detonated it.
Pressure cookers packed with explosives detonated by mobile phones is a description reminiscent of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in which two Massachusetts brothers used the said devices in an attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
The latest blast comes just a week after law enforcement and security agencies around the country observed heightened alert for the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attack that killed around 3000 people.
A Reuters report quoted law enforcement officials as saying the attack occurred in a dumpster. Likewise, CNN cited security sources indicating that they believe that attack was conducted using an improvised explosive device.
According to New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, 29 people were injured in the attacks, including one sustained serious injuries.