- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2016

Investigators scrambled Sunday night for clues behind an apparent terrorist explosion that rocked New York on Saturday as the Islamic State claimed credit for a Somali immigrant’s stabbing rampage in Minnesota.

Saturday night’s blast, apparently from a pressure-cooker bomb, injured 29 people in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and put the city on full alert, just as world leaders were beginning to arrive for this week’s annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly.

Police said Monday that they are searching for 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami so they can question him about the blast, The Associated Press reported.

Investigators found a second device just blocks away from the blast site — also reportedly a pressure-cooker bomb wired to a mobile phone detonator. But officials went to considerable lengths Sunday to avoid jumping to public conclusions about the developments, which are likely to put terrorism back on the front burner of the U.S. presidential race.

Authorities said they were searching but had not found any connection to an incident earlier Saturday, when a pipe bomb blew up a trash can in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors.

Up to five devices were found in a backpack in a waste basket in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and one blew up as the FBI bomb squad was trying to disarm it, the AP said. There were no immediate reports of injury.

SEE ALSO: Dahir A. Adan identified as man who stabbed nine in Minnesota, police confirm

However, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made a connection, saying in a statement that “I strongly condemn the apparent terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.”

Minnesota attacks

There was little ambiguity about responsibility in a stabbing Saturday night at a shopping mall. The Syria- and Iraq-based Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, sent a statement over jihadi websites asserting that one of its “soldiers” carried out the attack.

However, the Islamic State claim made no mention of the incidents in New Jersey and New York.

Nine people were wounded at the Crossroads Center shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The knife-wielding man reportedly asked at least one shopper whether the person was Muslim before attacking. Three of the victims were still hospitalized Sunday afternoon, but none had life-threatening wounds.

Jason Falconer, a part-time officer in the city of Avon, shot the attacker as he lunged at the officer with his knife.

“He clearly prevented additional injuries and potential loss of life,” St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said. “Officer Falconer was there at the right time and the right place.”

Authorities didn’t identify the attacker, but Ahmed Adan, speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune through an interpreter, said his son Dahir A. Adan, 22, was the attacker and that police had come to the Somali family’s home to seize evidence.

Rick Thornton, FBI special agent in charge, told reporters that authorities were investigating the attack as a possible act of terrorism and were looking for terrorism-related motives.

Explosion in New York

Officials said there was no claim of responsibility for the blast in New York City and that investigators were scrambling for clues that could lead to a suspect or motive behind that attack, which caused injuries but no deaths.

According to the New York Post, citing “law-enforcement sources,” an unidentified man threatened more attacks in a phone call.

“I’m looking at the explosion down the block. There will be more,” the man reportedly said.

The sources also told the Post that a handwritten letter, part of which was in Arabic, was found inside a plastic bag that held the second device.

“We know it was a very serious incident, but we have a lot more work to do to be able to say what kind of motivation was behind this,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “Was it a political motivation? Was it a personal motivation? We do not know that yet.”

The bombing hit about 8:30 p.m. Saturday along West 23rd Street in the bustling Chelsea neighborhood, a mostly residential part of Manhattan’s west side known for its art galleries and large gay population.

Officials said the bomb appeared to have been placed in a toolbox in front of a building under construction. Witnesses described a deafening blast, and surveillance video captured images of windows being blown out as people sprinted away from the scene.

Daniel Yount, 34, told The New York Times that he was on a nearby roof with friends when “we felt the shock waves go through our bodies.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all 29 injured were treated and released from a hospital by Sunday afternoon.

Speaking near the scene, Mr. Cuomo said the second device appeared similar in design but that investigators were still examining it after it was removed by a bomb squad robot and blown up at a police facility in the Bronx. He said there was no known link to international terrorism.

“We will find whoever planted these explosives, and they will be punished,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Other authorities said the second device resembled the homemade pressure-cooker bombs used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260. Two Islamist-radicalized brothers from Chechnya committed the attacks to retaliate against U.S. foreign policy.

The second, unexploded device was found on West 27th Street. A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in New York said investigators were examining its remnants to determine its composition.

As a precaution, Mr. Cuomo said, he was deploying an additional 1,000 state troopers and National Guard troops throughout the city.

The New Jersey pipe bomb was detonated via a cellphone timer, like the New York device that went off and the design of the one that didn’t. But there was little else Sunday night to link the attacks directly.

“We don’t believe at this time there’s any evidence connecting the attacks,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday. “We have some promising leads but no suspects at this time.”

No injuries were reported in New Jersey, largely because the race was delayed by a crush of registrants and reports of an unattended backpack. Had the race started on time, officials told reporters, the pipe bomb would have exploded while a “good number of people” were running past it.

Political response

The developments in New York — the home state of both U.S. presidential nominees — threaten to put terrorism and national security back at the center of the debate ahead of the November election.

Republican nominee Donald Trump addressed the New York incident during a rally in Colorado on Saturday night, saying that “just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York, and nobody knows what’s going on.”

Media reports denounced Mr. Trump for talking about the incident as a bombing before official word was declared, although Mrs. Clinton did the same.

Mr. Christie came to Mr. Trump’s defense Sunday morning.

The fellow Republican told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Trump’s handling of the situation “was perfectly appropriate.”

Mrs. Clinton addressed the “bombings in New York and New Jersey and the attacks in Minnesota” while answering reporters’ questions aboard her campaign plane Saturday night.

“ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack in Minnesota, and this should steel our resolve to protect our country and defeat ISIS and other terrorist groups,” she said in her Sunday statement.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the bombing in Manhattan was “a wake-up call, another one, [to] how vulnerable we are.”

“I don’t think we can accept it as being part of a new normal,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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