(NEW YORK) — Authorities now believe the three bombing incidences that took place this weekend in Seaside, New Jersey, New York City, and Elizabeth, New Jersey are related, sources say, although it is unclear whether the devices were the work of one suspect or a larger group.
Explosive devices discovered in separate locations created feelings of uncertainty over the weekend, as one of the country’s most populous metropolitan regions gets ready to host heads of state from around the world at the annual United Nations General Assembly, and millions of commuters geared up for another workweek.
At a little before 8 a.m. Monday, an alert went out seeking a man in connection with the Saturday night bombing in New York City, identified by authorities as 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami.
The FBI also released a wanted poster for Rahami with his photo, and announced that he was “wanted for questioning” related to the bombing. Rahami is a U.S. citizen originally born in Afghanistan, the FBI said. He is considered armed and dangerous.
The address of a home being searched by FBI agents in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is linked to a person with a similar name.
While officials said the events had not been linked to international terrorism, the security threat put residents, police and security personnel on high alert as three explosions took place over the weekend but did not cause any fatalities.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, while speaking on Good Morning America Monday praised the NYPD’s response to the threat, and said the department had “the largest anti-terror force of any police force in the country.”
The bomb devices — one exploding in an oceanfront town on the New Jersey shore, one in Manhattan and another in a town bordering Newark International Airport just beyond the city’s borders — initially left authorities struggling to respond to multiple possible terrorist incidents and searching for any link among them.
A device exploded early Monday after police recovered five possible homemade pipe bombs in a backpack taken from the trash in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey. The municipality directly borders one of the busiest airports in the country and sits just across a narrow body of water from the New York City border. The device detonated as a police robot attempted to disarm it. No one was injured.
The FBI’s Newark office tweeted that its bomb technicians had responded to the scene, along with investigators from Union County and the State Police of New Jersey. Amtrak shut down service on its Northeast corridor between New York and Trenton, New Jersey, because of the police activity.
Hours prior to the incident in Elizabeth, officials announced the detention of up to five individuals in connection with Saturday’s explosion in Manhattan that injured 29. The FBI’s New York field office confirmed a traffic stop had been conducted, but added that no charges had been made.
The Manhattan blast took place on West 23rd Street around 8:30 p.m. Saturday in an area frequented by shoppers and diners. All of those injured have been released from hospitals, Mayor de Blasio said.
In the block-by-block search after Saturday’s explosion, two former state troopers found a possible secondary device a few blocks away on 27th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, said James O’Neill, the city’s police commissioner. The second device, a pressure cooker, was in a white plastic bag with tape, wiring and a cellphone or other electronic device.
Earlier on Saturday, an apparent improvised explosive device was set off in Seaside Park, New Jersey, along the route of a planned 5K charity race to benefit U.S. Marines and sailors. Because of delays to the start of the run, the explosion occurred in an area without many people in it.
Authorities have not said publicly that they have determined any link between the incidents, or a possible motive, and have not made public any details of suspects being sought.
New Jersey Transit officials warned that the police activity and heightened security concerns could create transportation disruptions on Monday, advising customers to “plan for delays.”
President Obama is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan as the General Debate kicks off on Tuesday. He will be followed by some 85 heads of state and numerous leaders from member countries. The General Assembly runs until the 26th of September.
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