Despite the massive lack of information – and a great deal of misinformation – about the Boston Marathon bombings (over a dozen updates at that link), baseless accusations have been made by media talking heads about the people or group behind the attack.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has said that the individuals or entity behind the bombings “will feel the full weight of justice.”
Obama promised to put the full resources of the federal government behind the investigation of the bombings, adding that he had spoken to congressional leaders and said that “all were united in dealing with the tragedy,” according to the Los Angeles Times. It is unclear what that really means at this point.
While Obama mentioned that the bombings were still being investigated and thus people shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions before the facts are learned, some in the media have not followed that advice.
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen has already said that it could either be the work of al Qaeda terrorists or “right-wing extremists.”
According to Bergen, if the bomb was a “hydrogen peroxide device” it would mean al Qaeda was behind it. If any other explosive was used, it may mean “right-wing extremists” were involved.
However, Bergen said, “So, if it is a device of some kind, you know, we shouldn’t leap to conclusion about where it’s coming from.”
Bergen still noted that a hydrogen peroxide bomb was more likely, thus hinting that he believes it wasn’t actually “right-wing extremists.” Regardless, the first thing Bergen noted was that it reminded him of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Saudi Arabian suspect?
The New York Post also reported hours ago that unnamed authorities confirmed that a Saudi Arabian national is being held as a suspect.
While the Post reported that a “Saudi national who suffered shrapnel wounds in today’s blast” was identified by police as “a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing” in their earlier coverage, Talking Points Memo reported contradictory information.
“At this time, we haven’t been notified of any arrests or anyone apprehended,” a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department said, according to Talking Points Memo.
“Honestly, I don’t know where they’re getting their information from, but it didn’t come from us,” said the spokesperson.
NBC News also reported that a “possible suspect” was being guarded at a Boston hospital but a police department spokesperson again said that they had “no confirmation” of a possible suspect in custody.
“They didn’t obtain that information from us,” the spokesperson said, referring to the NBC report.
Later, at a press conference, Boston police commissioner Edward Davis reiterated that reports of a suspect in a hospital under police guard were “not true.”
“Those reports are not true, there is no suspect in custody,” Davis said, according to Talking Points Memo.
As of 6:05 PM EDT, the FBI’s national press office wouldn’t tell TPM if a suspect or person of interest had been identified.
Act of terrorism
Less than an hour ago, a White House official confirmed that the incident was “clearly” an act of terrorism.
“Any event with multiple explosive devices – as this appears to be – is clearly an act of terror, and will be approached as an act of terror,” the official said, according to Reuters.
“However, we don’t yet know who carried out this attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic,” the official added.
“My understanding is that it’s a terrorist incident,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to Oregon Live.
Feinstein added that U.S. intelligence agencies reported no advance warning that “there was an attack on the way,” according to Oregon Live.
Sens. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Angus King, a Maine Independent, both said that based on the initial reports, “multiple improvised explosive devices may have been involved at this high profile national event bear the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.”
According to an unnamed terrorism expert briefed on the investigation cited by CNN’s Deborah Feyerick, doctors are “pulling ball bearings out of people in the emergency room,” which suggests that the bombs were actually designed to propel shrapnel.
Social media “drill” rumors
There are rumors circulating social media and blogs claiming that the Boston Globe tweeted that there was going to be an explosion as part of a drill before the attacks took place.
As I pointed out in the fourth update to an article earlier today, this is incorrect.
The tweet at issue reads, “BREAKING NEWS: Police will have controlled explosion on 600 block on Boylston Street” and was posted at 12:53 PM Pacific.
The first tweet from the Boston Globe about the bombings reads, “BREAKING: A witness reports hearing two loud booms near the Boston Marathon finish line.” It was posted at 11:57 AM Pacific.
Put simply, the “controlled explosion” tweet was 54 minutes after the tweet about the two bombings.
Runner claims there was a “drill”
Despite erroneous claims on social media, WPMI Local 15 did report that a coach from the University of Mobile said that there were bomb sniffing dogs at the start and finish lines and law enforcement spotters on rooftops at the start of the race.
According to Ali Stevenson, who says he raced in marathons in Chicago, Washington, D.C., London and other major cities, that level of security is unusual.
It is important to note that the text of the report has been changed. Originally, it included a quote from Stevenson saying, “It seemed like there was some sort of threat, but they kept telling us it was just a drill.”
Stevenson told Local 15 that authorities told participants that it was just a training exercise, according to the new report which lacks the word “drill” entirely.
“They kept making announcements to the participants do not worry, it’s just a training exercise,” Stevenson said.
“Evidently, I don’t believe they were just having a training exercise,” he said. “I think they must have had some sort of threat or suspicion called in.”
The first two explosions occurred around 2:50 PM local time, some two hours after the first of the marathon’s roughly 27,000 runners crossed the finish line.
Police were not aware if it was related to the other two but were treating it as if it was at the time. No injuries were reported.
Yet just an hour later, AFP reported that the Boston Police Department retracted the statements about a third explosion and instead stated that the “JFK incident appears to be fire related.”
It was not related to the explosions according to local media.
Total casualties and injured
As of 5:00 PM Pacific, the injury count has gone up to 132 including eight children, according to local hospitals cited by CNN. Two have been reported dead, including an 8-year-old boy.
Currently, 17 of the injured are in critical condition and at least 25 are in serious condition, according to local hospitals.
Updates will follow as information becomes more clear.