FBI: Explosives Placed in Nylon Backpack


(Photo Credit: MGN Online/Boston Globes Sports via Twitter)

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By Matt Smith and Josh Levs

(CNN) — Investigators said Tuesday they’ll attempt to reconstruct the bombs that turned the Boston Marathon‘s finish line into a bloody nightmare and asked the public for help finding whoever planted them.

Three people died Monday — including 8-year-old Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, a 2001 graduate of Medford High School in Massachusetts. The third victim is a grad student at Boston University, according to a school spokesman.

More than 180 were injured.

Federal law enforcement sources told CNN the devices were made from pressure cookers and hidden in backpacks.

At a news conference Tuesday evening, the FBI agent leading the search said fragments of nails, BBs and scraps of black nylon — possibly from a backpack — are being handed over to the bureau’s laboratory “for a complete and thorough analysis.”

Rick DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, also asked people to report anyone who talked about targeting Monday’s race or showed interest in explosives. He urged anyone who might have heard the sounds of explosions in remote areas or saw someone carrying “an unusually heavy, dark-colored bag” around Monday to come forward.

“Someone knows who did this,” DesLauriers said. “Cooperation from the community will play a crucial role in this investigation.”

The U.S. government has warned federal agencies in the past that pressure cookers — airtight pots used to quickly cook or preserve foods — have been turned into bombs in parts of the world. A Department of Homeland Security memo called it “a technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps.”

“Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the pressure cooker,” the memo said.

A law enforcement official said earlier Monday that the blasts were likely detonated by timers.

Such bombs are “very effective,” terrorism expert Jeff Beatty told CNN. Taliban and al Qaeda militants “use them to make their IEDs,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean it was the Taliban — other people can read about this,” said Beatty, who served in the FBI, CIA and the military’s Delta Force.

So far, investigators have found no foreign or al Qaeda connection to the bombings, a U.S. official told CNN. And in Washington, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters that some of the facts suggest the carnage had its roots in American soil.

“There are a lot of things that are surrounding this that would give an indication that it may have been a domestic terrorist, but that just can’t be assumed,” Chambliss said. He did not elaborate.

Napolitano: No signs of ‘broad plot’

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the bombings don’t appear to be harbingers of “a broader plot.” But she urged Americans “to remain vigilant and immediately report any signs of suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials.”

And members of Congress who were briefed by Obama administration officials on told reporters that the field of possible suspects remains wide open.

“We really don’t know if it’s a foreign or domestic threat,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Commitee. “We don’t know whether this was a homegrown terrorist or part of a wider conspiracy.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper held closed-door talks with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Chambliss,R-Georgia, told reporters afterward that “there’s not a whole lot of update to give.”

“This is a very fluid investigation. The FBI’s in the lead, and I personally know the special agent in charge. He’s one of the best,” Chambliss said.

Late Monday, authorities searched the apartment of a young Saudi man who was among the wounded at the race. He was found to have no connection to the attack.

“He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” the U.S. official said.

A Saudi woman, a medical student who was also injured in the blast, has also been interviewed by investigators, according to a law enforcement source.

Boston’s ‘most complex crime scene’ ever

Investigators are combing through shreds of evidence from what Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis called “the most complex crime scene that we’ve dealt with in the history of our department.” The cordoned off area has been reduced from 15 blocks to 12 and will be reduced further in coming days, he said.

Even the smallest bits of debris could help indicate the bombs’ “signature,” said a federal law enforcement official who works in the intelligence community.

The explosives themselves were small, and initial tests showed no C-4 or other high-grade explosive material — suggesting the packages used in the attack were crude devices, a federal law enforcement official in the intelligence community said.

Based on the bombs’ effects, the devices could have been small enough to be concealed in small bags or boxes, a law enforcement official said. The smoke was consistent with a “low-velocity improvised explosive mixture, perhaps flash powder or sugar chlorate mixture,” the official said.

“We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime — and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice,” said Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division.

“Our mission is clear: to bring to justice those responsible. … The American public wants answers. The citizens of the city of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts want and deserve answers.”

Videos to be examined

Authorities have begun to search through huge amounts of video and images from surveillance cameras in the area near the attack. So far, no footage has been spotted showing someone placing the bombs, a law enforcement source said.

Authorities have asked anyone with images from any part of the marathon to share them with police.

“People don’t know that they were witnesses — that they might actually have evidence in their phones or in their cameras,” Juliette Kayyem, President Obama’s former assistant secretary for homeland security, said on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Davis vowed authorities will sift “through every frame of every video.”

The FBI is likely issuing subpoenas for records from cell towers in the area to isolate and trace calls from around Copley Square at the time of the blasts, according to a federal law enforcement official.

Doctors believe bombs contained sharp objects

Two doctors overseeing treatment of the injured believe the explosive devices contained nails or similar objects.

Many patients have severe wounds “related to the blast effect of the bomb as well as small metallic fragments that entered their body,” including “pellets” and “nail-like objects,” said Dr. George Velmahos, head of trauma care at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A variety of sharp objects were found inside the patients’ bodies, he said, adding that the bombs probably contained multiple metallic fragments.

Asked whether what was found in the patients’ bodies could have come from nearby objects that exploded in the blast, Velmahos said he believes the materials were likely part of the explosive devices.

Ron Walls, chair of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said most patients there were wounded by “ordinary debris.” But three were injured by “perfectly round objects” that were “very uniform, consistent, metallic,” he said. And another patient had more than 12 carpenter-type nails.

“There is no question some of these objects were implanted in the device for the purpose of being exploded forward,” Wall said.

Authorities have not said what the bombs may have been made of.

No unexploded bombs

Suspicious packages that were detonated out of precaution after the bombings turned out not to be explosive devices after all.

After the blasts Monday, some officials reported that explosive devices that failed to go off were found.

But investigators said Tuesday the only bombs were the two that exploded at the marathon.

The intelligence community is poring through all threat reporting for any clues, U.S. counterterrorism officials told CNN.

That includes any claims made on jihadist websites. Nothing is being dismissed this early on, the officials said.

A law enforcement official in Boston said investigators “have a number of active leads and some good early progress in the forensics analysis.”

There were no credible threats ahead of the race, a state government official said.

Boston officials who worked quickly Monday to clear the crime scene and divert thousands of runners half a mile away should get an award, said Kayyem, who also served as homeland security adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

The move minimized chaos and “preserved the crime scene, which is going to be key for the FBI investigation. Those are lessons learned out of 9/11.”

Open events are hard to secure, Kayyem said. “People say, ‘Oh, how could this happen again?…’ The better way to look at it, I think, is: Did we respond better? I think the answer is yes.”

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