Package bombs could be linked to earlier Austin attack

A police officer stands guard by crime scene tape at the home where a 17-year-old boy was killed and a woman injured in a package bomb explosion in Austin, Texas. Austin police believe that three package bombings in the city over the past 10 days are connected. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Package bombs could be linked to earlier Austin attack

LONDON: Police in the US city of Austin said Monday they believe that three package bombings over the past 10 days — two of them fatal — are linked, and urged the public to remain vigilant.
Texas police said they were investigating the possibility that the attacks were serial hate crimes.
“Based on evidence that we have at this scene, as well as at the other two scenes where we’ve had these explosions, this evidence makes us believe that these incidents are related,” Austin police chief Brian Manley told reporters. Package bombs that killed a teenager and wounded two women Monday in Austin are probably linked to a similar bombing that killed a man in the city earlier this month, authorities said, and investigators are considering whether race was a factor because all of the victims were minorities.
The first of Monday’s attacks killed a 17-year-old boy and wounded a 40-year-old woman, both of them black. As Police Chief Brian Manley held a news conference to discuss that blast, officers were called to the scene of another explosion that badly injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman. She was taken to a hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries.
Authorities suspect that both of Monday’s blasts are linked to a March 2 attack that killed a 39-year-old black man, and they urged the public to call police if they receive any unexpected packages.
The latest explosions happened during the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, which brings about 400,000 visitors to Austin each year. The explosions happened far from the festival’s main events, and there was no immediate word from organizers about additional safety precautions.
Four years ago, a driver plowed through a barricade and into festival-goers, killing four people and injuring many others. Additional security measures were taken in the aftermath, including additional policing, tougher security checks and brighter street lighting, among others.
The three explosions occurred in different parts of Austin. Monday’s first explosion happened at a home near the city’s Windsor Park neighborhood and about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the home where the March 2 package bomb killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. His death was initially investigated as suspicious but is now viewed as a homicide.
Monday’s second explosion happened in the Montopolis neighborhood, near the airport and about 5 miles south of the day’s first blast.
In at least the first two blasts, the packages were left overnight on the victims’ doorsteps and were not mailed or sent by a delivery service. He said neither the Postal Service nor private carriers such as UPS or FedEx have any record of delivering the package to the home where Monday’s explosion occurred.
“There are similarities that we cannot rule out that these two items are, in fact, related,” Manley said.
Investigators have not determined a motive for the attacks, but it is possible that the victims could have been targeted because of their race, he said.
“We don’t know what the motive behind these may be,” Manley said. “We do know that both of the homes that were the recipients of these packages belong to African-Americans, so we cannot rule out that hate crime is at the core of this.”
Special Agent Michelle Lee, a San Antonio-based spokesman for the FBI, said the agency responded to both events and was assisting Austin police, who were leading the local investigation. She said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was leading the federal investigation.
A second package was discovered near the site of the initial Monday explosion, and some residents and media members were evacuated or pushed farther from the blast site as authorities determined whether it was a bomb, Manley said.
Police did not immediately identify the teenager who was killed. Manley said the woman who was injured in that attack is hospitalized.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 20 April 2019
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.