The FBI has taken over the investigation to find those responsible for setting off two bombs Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring at least 140 in what federal authorities have labeled a terrorist attack.
President Obama vowed to “find out who did this” in remarks made about three hours after the 2:50 p.m. explosions in Boston that were separated by about 12 seconds and about 100 yards at the end of the 26.2 mile race course.
“We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake — we will get to the bottom of this,” Obama said from the White House. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
Shattered glass, blood stained sidewalks, and victims screaming for help painted a scene in stark contrast to the celebrations seen across Boston for the Massachusetts state holiday of Patriots Day. The carnage on Boston streets left many to compare it to the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan following an improvised explosive device attack.
“This is something I've never seen in my 25 years here ... this amount of carnage in the civilian population. This is what we expect from war," said Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Investigators are treating the attack as “an act of terror,” a White House official said.
“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,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Lawmakers briefed on the investigation said the attack, with its coordinated explosions and the discovery of at least two more explosive devices, had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.
"We just don't know whether it's foreign or domestic," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
No terrorist group had taken responsibility for the attack and no arrests have been made as of early Tuesday morning, although many have been questioned, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said.
The Pakistan-based Taliban has denied any connection to the attacks on the Boston Marathon, according to a spokesman. “Wherever we find Americans we will kill them, but we don’t have any connection with the Boston Explosions,” said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan.
Obama said he has spoken to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and “they’re mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond.”
Massachusetts National Guardsmen assigned to the race to provide security and aid injured runners immediately joined with Boston police to respond to casualties and search out further threats. Massachusetts assigned about 460 guardsmen to the race.
Authorities found at least two more explosive devices throughout the city as officials searched garbage cans and any suspicious packages following the twin explosions.
The Navy has sent one of its bomb-disposal units to Boston to assist local authorities. The three-member explosive ordnance disposal team based at Naval Station Newport, R.I., went to Massachusetts after state officials asked for help.
The bombings occurred about four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the finish line. By that point, more than 17,000 of the athletes had finished the marathon, but thousands more were still running. About 23,000 runners took part in the race.
The attack may have been timed for maximum carnage: The four-hour mark is typically a crowded time near the finish line because of the slow-but-steady recreational runners completing the race and because of all the friends and relatives clustered around to cheer them on.
Katie Heath, an Air Force spouse from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, finished the race in 3 hours and 48 minutes – about 20 minutes before the blasts."This has been a very emotional day for me," Heath said in an interview with base media on Monday. “Running a marathon is very taxing and then to have such a horrific event occur --I have been in shock most of the day.”
Heath, wife of F-22 pilot Capt. Kevin Heath of the 90th Fighter Squadron, was in the family area about two blocks from the finish line where the first explosion occurred.Many servicemembers and veterans raced in the Boston Marathon Monday. It is not known how many current and former servicemembers or their family members were among the injured.
Groups of military runners scrambled to contact friends and family to ensure their safety. The running teams from the Naval Academy and West Point reported that all of their runners were safe and unharmed.
Other groups like Team Red, White and Blue, a veterans support group, spent most of the evening trying to track down the 17 runners they had compete in the marathon.
“It has been a really long day, but I’m glad we are able to report that everyone is safe in what was a scary day for a lot of people,” said Larry Olson, a spokesman for the group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.