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Published 16 April 2013 06:47, Updated 17 April 2013 07:06
Spectators and runners run from what was described as twin explosions that shook the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Photo: video provided by WBZ TV/AP
US President Barack Obama has vowed those responsible for a series of bomb blasts near the finish of the Boston Marathon will “feel the full weight of justice”.
Three people died and more than 130 were injured in two simultaneous explosions just hours after the winners of the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon crossed the line, but with several thousand runners still to finish.
In an address to the nation from the White House at 8.10am AEST, Mr Obama said his government was continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolded.
“We still do not know who did this or why, but make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this and why they did this,” he said in the televised address.
“Any responsible individual, any responsible group, will feel the full weight of justice.”
Graphic footage of one of the bomb blasts and its immediate aftermath.
Mr Obama told Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino “every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel their families” would be made available.
He was briefed on Monday’s explosions by FBI director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Eight hospitals report that they are treating at least 130 people, including several children. At least 15 of the injured are in a critical condition. The injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to amputations. Many victims suffered lower leg injuries and shrapnel wounds. Some suffered ruptured eardrums.
Witnesses said one of the blasts was on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the marathon’s finish line, and the other was about 50 to 100 yards down the block.
“It felt like a huge cannon,” a witness told CNN.
There are reports that authorities have found three other devices that did not explode, including one in Newton, outside of Boston, raising the possibility of a coordinated attack.
“We’re treating this as an ongoing event at this time,” Edward Davis, Boston’s police commissioner, said at a late afternoon news conference.
Federal authorities are classifying the bombings as a terrorist attack, according to CNN, but it’s not clear whether the origin was domestic or foreign, a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told the network.
SWAT officers stand guard. “We’re treating this as an ongoing event at this time,” Edward Davis, Boston’s police commissioner, said .Photo: Reuters
Commissioner Davis declined to call the blasts a terrorist attack, but said, “you can reach your own conclusions about what happened here”.
The US Navy has sent a three-person bomb-disposal units to Boston to help local authorities, which are investigating the bombings and checking other bags and packages left unattended as terrified crowds races away from the chaos.
People were urged to stay indoors and not congregate in large groups, and mobile phone service has been shut down in the Boston area to prevent any potential remote detonations of explosives.
Flights in and out of Boston were grounded and the airspace over Washington DC was closed, while the Mandarin, Marriott and Lenox hotels were evacuated.
Commissioner Davis initially said a separate explosion at the John F Kennedy presidential library was being treated as linked, but police later said that incident was believed to be fire-related.
Despite reports on social media to the contrary, police say they do not have a suspect in custody.