A bomb that injured 29 people Saturday in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and another that failed to detonate, were filled with shrapnel and made with pressure cookers, flip phones and Christmas lights that set off a powerful explosive compound, law enforcement officials said Sunday.
Both bombs appeared designed to create maximum chaos and fatalities — they also provided a trove of clues even as any suspects remained unnervingly at large.
A top law enforcement official said pressure cookers were filled with “fragmentation materials.” The bomb that exploded, at 23rd Street, was filled with small bearings or metal BBs. A second device on 27th Street that did not explode appeared to be filled with the same material, the official said.
‘Person of interest’
Late Sunday, two senior law enforcement officials said there was a “person of interest” in the bombing, but it was unclear if that person had been identified.
Senior law enforcement officials also said that they were increasingly focused on the possibility that the attack was connected to a bombing that took place Saturday morning in New Jersey, but the authorities still needed to compare all the bombs before drawing any conclusions. There, three pipe bombs were tied together, placed in a trash can and also employed by a flip phone as a timing mechanism, according to officials.
Officials said they did not know of any motive — political or social — for any of the attacks. Early Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said “there is no evidence of an international terrorism connection with this incident,” noting that no international terrorist group has claimed responsibility.
The bombing comes at a time of increasing nervousness around the world after terrorist attacks in Belgium and France, creating a climate where even a false report of gunfire at John F. Kennedy Airport recently created widespread panic.
“This is one of the nightmare scenarios,” Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday. “We really were very lucky that there were no fatalities.”
The search for the person or people behind the attack in New York took on added urgency as President Barack Obama and leaders from around the world travel to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly this week.
Tests showed that the explosive material in the 23rd Street bomb was similar to a commercially available compound called Tannerite, according to two law enforcement officials. It was unclear why Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed with such certainty a tie to international terror. Experts said the bomb’s construction offered conflicting clues.
The recovery of the second device provides investigators with a host of potential leads, from the phone and other materials inside the homemade bomb to the pressure cooker itself — including possibly determining when and where it was purchased — to any possible fingerprints on the device, its components or the tape that held it together.
The police continued to search the area around the blast site and fanned out across the city chasing leads and trying to sort through a variety of claims of responsibility — from Twitter to websites to 911 calls — most of which were dismissed as unrelated.
Late Sunday, FBI agents were seen tearing apart a car of an Uber driver, who said the law enforcement officials were searching for possible evidence related to the attack.