Device near train station explodes while FBI investigates

Screen grab of explosion of bomb in New Jersey/NBC News
Screen grab of explosion of bomb in New Jersey/NBC News

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP/NBC News) – Law enforcement officials are searching for a 28-year-old suspect of playing a role in the bombings that have occurred over the last three days in New York and New Jersey.

Multiple senior law enforcement officials and an NYPD spokesperson early Monday identified Ahmad Rahami of Elizabeth, New Jersey, as a suspect. Sources told NBC News he was the man seen on video in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, site of an explosion Saturday night.

The announcement came hours after a backpack that appeared to contain pipe bombs exploded as a police robot examined it near a New Jersey train station.

A suspicious device found in a trash can near a train station exploded early Monday as a bomb squad was attempting to disarm it with a robot, officials said.

Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said the FBI was working to disarm one of five devices found in the same bag in a trash can by two men at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday near the Elizabeth train station. The men had reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package, Bollwage said.

There was no immediate report of injuries or damage. The mayor warned that other explosions were expected.

FBI agents and police converged on an apartment above a fried chicken restaurant near the train station before 6 a.m. Monday, but it was not clear whether their search of the dwelling was connected to the explosion.

New Jersey Transit service trains resumed service on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line at 5:30 a.m. Monday, but they faced residual delays because service was suspended after the devices were found.

Amtrak was operating on a modified schedule.

Train passengers reported being stuck on Amtrak and NJ Transit trains for hours Sunday night, while some trains moved in reverse to let passengers off at other stations. Amtrak said 2,400 passengers were affected and trains were being brought in to other stations for people to get other transportation.

It wasn’t clear when the Elizabeth station would be open, a threat to cause major issues on the Monday morning commute into New York.

The discovery of the suspicious package came a day after an explosion in Manhattan injured 29 people, and an unexploded pressure-cooker device was found four blocks away in New York City. Also Saturday, a pipe bomb exploded about an hour from the Elizabeth train station in Seaside Park, New Jersey, forcing the cancellation of a military charity 5K run. Officials said it didn’t appear that those two incidents were connected, though they weren’t ruling anything out.

Investigators didn’t immediately comment on whether they thought the Elizabeth incident was connected to either of the two blasts.

Bollwage said that he wasn’t willing to say that Elizabeth had become a target and that it was possible that someone worried about the authorities was trying to get rid of the package.

“I’m extremely concerned for the residents of the community, but more importantly extremely concerned for everyone in the state and country where someone can just go and drop a backpack into a garbage can that has multiple explosives in it,” Bollwage said. “You have to wonder how many people could have been hurt.”

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