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April 16. 2013 12:13AM

FBI agent: 'We will go to the ends of the Earth' to bring bomber to justice


 
BOSTON - The FBI special agent in charge of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation said today that agents will "go to the ends of the Earth to bring whoever is responsible for this despicable crime to justice."
 
Speaking from the emergency command center at the Westin Hotel, Special Agent Rick DesLauriers told a crowded press conference that there are "no known additional threats" in the wake of two bombs that ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people.
 
DesLauriers was joined by Gene Marquez, acting agent in charge of the Boston field office of the ATF, who dismissed rumors that as many as seven other unexploded devices were discovered.
 
"There were only two devices that we are aware of," he said, "and both were the devices involved in the damage and explosive incidents."
 
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the number of casualties associated with the bomb blasts is now at 176, with patients in Boston and South Shore area hospitals. Seventeen are in critical condition, he said.
 
Authorities would not comment on the type of devices that were used to create the explosion, or respond to reports that a suspect was in custody in a Boston hospital.
 
The wide-ranging press conference was dedicated mostly to thanking emergency responders, calling on the public to provide whatever information it can, and urging patience amid street closures and heightened security measures.
 
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said "Boston will overcome," and urged anyone with pictures, video or information that might help investigators to call the Boston Police line for witnesses at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3. A special mayor's hotline has also been set up for families of victims at 617-635-4500.
 
Gov. Duval Patrick said the city would gather for an interfaith prayer service on Wednesday, "to help our community heal," with details forthcoming.
 
Davis said the 15-block crime scene has been reduced to 12, and more streets will open as soon as possible. "We want to open up as many streets as we can and get people into their buildings as quickly as we can," he said, "but please be patient with us. We expect the crime scene will go for another two days at least, and people should make appropriate plans."
 
Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said the enhanced police presence in Boston would continue for the next several days and probably longer, not because law enforcement officials fear additional threats, but "to provide some comfort to the public who are using transportation centers and going about their business."
 
He said even the most obscure material might prove helpful. "There has to be hundreds if not thousands of photographs, videos and observations that were made at the finish line," he said. "Bring forward anything. You might not think its significant, but it might have some value to the investigation."
The blasts a few seconds apart knocked some runners off their feet and shattered what had been a resplendent spring day with the state of Massachusetts celebrating Patriots' Day, which commemorates the U.S. war of independence on the third Monday in April.
April 15 is also the deadline for U.S. taxpayers to file their annual income tax returns.
Many runners were heading for the finish when a fireball and smoke rose from behind cheering spectators and a row of flags representing the countries of participants, video from the scene showed. The cheers turned to screams and panic.
"I saw people who looked like they had their legs blown off. There was a lot of blood over their legs. Then people were being pushed in wheelchairs," said Joe Anderson, 33, a fisherman from Pembroke, Mass., who had just run the race holding a large U.S. flag.
Many of the victims were gravely injured, Gov. Patrick said.
Some suffered shrapnel wounds and amputations and will require repeat operations in the coming days, said Peter Fagenholtz, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ambulances, fire trucks and dozens of police vehicles converged at the scene, and spectators could be seen crying and consoling each other.
The dead included an 8-year-old boy, the Boston Globe reported, citing two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. A 2-year-old was being treated with a head injury at Boston Children's Hospital, the hospital said in a statement.
"It sounded like a sonic boom. I haven't stopped shaking yet," said Melissa Stanley, who watched her daughter cross the finish line four minutes before the explosions.
The blasts put police on alert in major cities across the United States, including in Washington, D.C. and New York City, sites of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis called them "powerful devices."
In Washington, Obama told reporters, "Make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this."
"Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice," he said.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation took the lead on the investigation with help from several other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The two explosions at 2:50 p.m. were about 50 to 100 yards apart as runners crossed the finish line with a timer showing 4 hours and 9 minutes, some 9 minutes faster than the average finish time, as reported by Runner's World magazine.
Spectators typically line the 26.2 mile race course, with the heaviest crowds near the finish line.
Mike Mitchell of Vancouver, Canada, a runner who had finished the race, said he was looking back at the finish line and saw a "massive explosion." Smoke rose 50 feet in the air, Mitchell said. People began running and screaming after hearing the noise, Mitchell said.
"Everybody freaked out," Mitchell said.
The annual Boston Marathon, held since 1897, attracts an estimated half-million spectators and some 20,000 participants every year.
Earlier on Monday, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo won the men's and women's events respectively, continuing African runners' dominance in the sport.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra canceled Monday night's concert and the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins canceled their home game against the Ottawa Senators. The Boston Red Sox had completed their Major League Baseball game at Fenway Park before the explosions.
Additional reporting by Reuters reporters  Aaron Pressman, Stephanie Simon, Scott Malone, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Tim McLaughlin, Edith Honan, Frank McGurty and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Grant McCool and Eric Walsh

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