New York City Blast Rocks Downtown Manhattan, 29 Wounded; Second Device Defused

New York City mayor says explosion in Chelsea was 'intentional act,' but apparently not terror attack; police find pressure cooker nearby connected to cellphone with wires attached.

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Surveillance video captures N.Y.C. explosion in Chelsea.
Taly Krupkin
Taly Krupkin
New York City

An explosion in a crowded Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan on Saturday night left 29 people injured, and authorities called the blast an "intentional act" but said there was no terrorist connection.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that a second device that officers investigated four blocks from the scene appeared to be a pressure cooker attached to wiring and a cellphone. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation, said the device was found inside a plastic bag on West 27th Street.

N.Y. mayor: 'No early evidence' of terror link

The device was removed with a robot and taken to the department firing range in the Bronx, officials said.

Early Sunday, police said they were investigating reports of a suspicious package five blocks from the blast scene.

The blast happened on West 23rd street, in front of a residence for the blind, near a major thoroughfare with many restaurants. Witnesses say the explosion at about 8:30 P.M. blew out the windows of businesses in the area.

It was unclear who was behind the blast and what motivated it.

"Tonight, New York City experienced a very bad incident," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference near the scene. "We have no credible and specific threat at this moment."

De Blasio said the blast was "an intentional act" and tried to calm any fears among nervous New Yorkers, saying the explosion had no terrorist connection and wasn't related to a pipe bomb explosion earlier Saturday in New Jersey at a charity run.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the explosion appears to have come from a construction toolbox in front of a building. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation.

Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said several people were taken to hospitals with injuries. One of the injured suffered a puncture wound that was considered serious. He said the other injuries were minor, described as scrapes and bruises.

A number of New York City subway routes were affected by the explosion, which rattled some New Yorkers just weeks after the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Six hours after the explosion, New Yorkers standing near the barricades were not sure what happened. On 5th Avenue, a woman in a group leaving a club seemed unsure – she lives on 23rd Street, near the site of the blast. "Good luck getting home," a passerby tells her. Her friend suggests going around the police barricades. "I don't want to be blown up!" she replies.

Two Russian-born young men were standing near the closed-off area, looking at the busy street. "We were just walking and suddenly we saw all these policemen, and then they said there was a bomb! I just lost it, I thought it was a joke," Roman, 20, said.

His friend Semion, who had been in New York longer, offers that the explosion might still turn out to have a prosaic explanation. "Some are saying it could be terrorists but it could also be another reason. Once in East Village, a Ukrainian man tried to get illegal gas service and he blew up the whole building. There could still be a banal explanation."

Chris Gonzalez, visiting from Dallas, was having dinner with friends at a restaurant in the area. "We felt it, we heard it, the restaurant went real quiet, the 26-year-old Gonzalez said. "It wasn't like jolting or anything, everyone just went quiet," he said earlier.

Rudy Alcide, a bouncer at Vanity Nightclub at 21st Street and 6th Avenue, said he, at first, thought something large had fallen. "It was an extremely loud noise, everything was shaking, the windows were shaking, it was crazy," he said. "It was extremely loud, almost like thunder, but louder."

Witnesses say FBI and Homeland Security officials, along with the ATF arson and explosive task force are also at the scene.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the FBI's joint terrorism task force was responding and that investigators did not believe the incident was due to a gas leak. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and requested anonymity.

The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama has been apprised of the explosion in New York City and will be updated as additional information becomes available.

In St. Cloud, Minnesota, eight people were taken to a hospital with injuries after a stabbing attack at a shopping mall on Saturday evening which ended with the suspected attacker dead inside the mall.

St. Cloud Hospital Communications Specialist Chris Nelson told the St. Cloud Times that of the eight people brought there, seven had injuries that were not life-threatening. No further details were released

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she has been briefed "about the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the attack in Minnesota."

She said the nation needs to support its first responders and "pray for the victims." "We have to let this investigation unfold," she said.

Speaking in Colorado, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said a "bomb went off" in New York, CNN reported. Trump made the claim before New York officials confirmed the details of the incident.

The reports of a possible blast come hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners participated in a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. No injuries were reported.

With reporting from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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