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Texas package bombs may be serial hate crimes: police


Chicago (AFP)

Two parcel bombs rattled the US city of Austin on Monday, 10 days after a similar deadly blast, as Texas police said they were investigating the possibility of serial hate crimes against African Americans.

A 17-year-old was killed early Monday after bringing a package into his home and opening it, while a woman living at the same address was also injured. On March 2, a first parcel bomb claimed the life of a 39-year-old man.

"We do see similarities and believe that these cases are linked at this time," Austin police chief Brian Manley told a news conference, adding that there was "no immediate indication" of terrorism and that police had yet to establish a definite motive.

"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, but we are not saying that that's the cause," he said.

Later on Monday, a woman in her 70s was injured in a third explosion, which the city fire department said was also caused by a package.

Police did not however confirm an immediate connection to the first two incidents -- or whether the victim was black.

Authorities believe the packages were left overnight and not delivered through the mail, and were canvassing neighboring homes for any outdoor surveillance video.

The explosions came as Austin, a metropolis of two million people, welcomed some half a million attendees from nearly 100 countries for the massive entertainment and media festival South by Southwest.

Festival organizers did not immediately say whether they would be taking extra precautions.

Residents have meanwhile been warned to avoid opening unexpected items left at their doorsteps and report anything suspicious to police.

"I want the public to be aware and to be cautious," Manley said.

The home targeted in Monday morning's attack was significantly damaged and investigators from several agencies would be combing through the property for clues, Manley said.

While he did not release details of the evidence recovered, he said investigators had identified the type of explosive device used.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms said a national response team would join Austin police in the investigation.

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