Two injured in mysterious Texas bombing, fourth in month


Chicago (AFP)

Police and bomb experts were hard at work Monday investigating a fourth mysterious bombing this month in the Texas state capital of Austin, a blast that injured two young men in their twenties.

The explosion came just hours after police made a direct public appeal to the person or persons who carried out the previous bombings to come forward.

So far, they have claimed the lives of two people and injured four others.

The two killed earlier this month were African Americans, raising the possibility of a hate crime. The race of the two latest victims was not immediately disclosed.

But police believe all the bombings are connected, although the latest one appeared to be activated by a trip wire while the others were concealed in packages left on doorsteps.

Austin interim police chief Brian Manley told reporters the two youths injured in Sunday night's blast were either riding their bikes or pushing them when a suspicious package on the side of the road detonated.

It is "very possible" that it was "activated by someone either handling, kicking or coming in contact with a tripwire that activated the device," he said.

"That changes things," he said. "We now need to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device, whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack, anything that looks out of place."

Police, however, did not mention the race of the Sunday victims.

An exploding package on March 2 killed a 39 year-old man. On March 12, a 17-year-old boy was killed and a woman was injured by another package bomb. A Hispanic woman was seriously injured in a second blast the same day.

Police cordoned off a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) radius of a residential neighborhood of southwest Austin after the latest explosion.

Area residents were told to stay indoors until police determined it was safe.

The county Emergency Medical Service said on Twitter Sunday that they responded to reports of an explosion around 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Monday), and two men in their 20s were rushed to a hospital with serious injuries.

Police later said the victims were in good condition.

"Stay inside your home until we have had a chance to deem this neighborhood safe," Manley said at a streetside news conference.

"That will not be, at a minimum, until daylight, given the darkness and the size of the area that we want to go in and check to make sure again that this neighborhood is safe."

Because of the darkness "we have not really had an opportunity to really look at this blast site to determine what has happened," he said.

- $115,000 reward -

Investigators believe the earlier attacks were related. All of the cardboard packages were hand-delivered, not sent through the mail, and the bombs were built with household items available at hardware stores.

A task force of hundreds of agents are working on the case, including criminal profilers and experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

Since the bombings began city police have responded to some 700 suspicious package calls, the Austin-American Statesman said.

Manley said that investigators have followed up on 435 leads that led to 236 interviews, the newspaper reported.

At a press conference just before Sunday's bombing, Manley made a direct appeal to whoever carried out the bombings.

"We believe that the recent explosive incidents that have occurred in the city of Austin were meant to send a message," he said.

"We hope this person or persons is watching and will reach out to us before anyone else is injured or anyone else is killed out of this event," he added.

"We want to understand what brought you to this point, and we want to listen to you," he said.

Police also said they were increasing the reward offered for information leading to an arrest, bringing the total city and state bounty money to $115,000.