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NEW YORK – An explosion rocked the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Saturday night, injuring at least 29 people, authorities said, adding that they are investigating the blast as a criminal act not immediately linked to any terror organization.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials said investigators had ruled out a natural gas leak as the origin of the blast but they stopped short of calling it a bombing and declined to specify precisely what they believed may have triggered the explosion.
“Early indications are that this was an intentional act,” De Blasio said. He added that the site of the explosion, outside on a major thoroughfare in one of the most bustling areas of New York City, was being treated as a crime scene.
“There is no evidence at this point of a terror connection,” the mayor said at a news conference about three hours after the blast. He added, “There is no specific and credible threat against New York City at this point in time from any terror organization.”
The mayor said investigators did not believe there was any link to a pipe bomb that exploded earlier on Saturday in the New Jersey beach town of Seaside Park. No injuries were reported in that blast, in a plastic trash can along the route of a charity foot race. Authorities said they believed it to be a deliberate act.
But a US official said that Joint Terrorism Task Force, an interagency group of federal, state, and local officials, was called to investigate the Chelsea blast, suggesting authorities have not ruled out the possibility of a terror connection.
A joint task force also took the lead in investigating the New Jersey incident.
A law enforcement source said an initial investigation suggested the Chelsea explosion occurred in a dumpster but the cause was still undetermined. The head of the New York Police Department’s special operations division said on Twitter that a “possible secondary device has been located” in the same general area. (Reuters)