FBI Special Agent Richard Deslauriers told reporters Tuesday, April 16, that the probe had no leads 18 hours after two explosions blew up at the annual Boston Marathon’s finishing line, killing three people and injuring 176 – 17 critically. debkafile’s counterterrorism sources can disclose however that the investigation has in fact homed in on a suspected terror cell of three Saudi nationals, very possibly tied to Al Qaeda.
The flat they share in the Revere, Massachusetts, near Boston, was searched after the questioning of one of the suspects, a Saudi student, who was hospitalized with badly burned hands. One of his flatmates was taken into custody over “visa problems.” A third is on the run. All three hail from a prominent Saudi family belonging to a tribe from the Asir province bordering on Yemen.
The search for the wanted man led to the grounding of a plane at Logan International Airport Tuesday. The investigation has meanwhile broadened out to places in and outside Boston in a search for the cell’s accomplices.
The origins of the Saudi cell, if confirmed, strongly suggest that Al Qaeda of Arabia – AQAP –succeeded in planting a cell in the United States for the bombing attack in Boston – and possibly more than one in other parts of the US. Asir Province is known as a hotbed of resistance to the Saudi throne in Riyadh.
US law enforcement authorities in charge of the probe are refusing to confirm any suspects are in custody, or even leads to whoever carried out the bombings. President Barack Obama said in his second statement in 24 hours: “…we don’t know if who was behind the bombings were foreign, domestic or individual.” The President was forced to admit for the first time that the FBI was investigating “an act of terror.”
debkafile earlier Tuesday was alone in reporting that the FBI Boston Marathon probe pointed to Mid-East terrorists with domestic support.
The lack of adequate security jumps to the eye after twin bombings struck the high-prestige Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, killing three people, including an 8-year old boy and injuring 140 – seventeen critically.
This was the world's oldest annual marathon, with 28,000 runners representing athletes from every US state and more than 90 nations. Yet there was no sign of dogs along the route trained to sniff out explosives or a police helicopter overhead with sensors for detecting explosives or traces thereof on the person of anyone present around the finishing line after the blasts.
Tuesday morning, while interviewing witnesses and collecting photos taken by spectators, the Boston police and security officers announced they were seeking two wanted men: One was described as swarthy, speaking with a foreign accent, his face partially hidden by a hood, who was carrying a large backpack and kept on trying to enter a closed section near the finishing line. This was the first time an area was disclosed as having been closed to the public.
The second man was photographed by a spectator walking on a rooftop overlooking the finishing line after the second bomb exploded.
After the event, police searches turned up and defused another three explosive devices. Had that search taken place before the event, at least one of the lethal devices might have been discovered and the race aborted.
Tuesday, the FBI admitted “a potential terrorist inquiry” was underway, although President Barack Obama, when he pledged justice for “the perpetrators,” carefully skirted the term “terror.” This recalls his administration’s refusal to brand as an act of terror the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, and the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, although it was clearly the work of an al Qaeda element.
Counterterrorism experts are equally certain of the Middle East terrorist hallmarks on the Boston Marathon bombings, although it is too soon to say whether it was the work of Al Qaeda or an allied radical jihadi group such as the Ansar al-Shariah, which was responsible for the Benghazi consulate in conjunction with a clandestine al Qaeda command center in Cairo.
Here, too, initial investigation discloses the hand of al Qaeda or an affiliate.
Ahead of the London marathon scheduled for next week and the state funeral of the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Wednesday, April 17, a determined official effort is being made in Washington and London to present the Boston bombings as the work of a lone wolf.
However, experts experienced in these matters maintain that an attack on this scale and of this type would have required four or five bombers on the ground and a support team of about 10 spotters and accomplices familiar with the terrain, further back. They would have needed more than one vehicle and communications gear, in addition to mobile phones which are easily tracked.
The two explosions, 400 meters apart, were obviously coordinated and designed to cause maximum casualties. The ball-bearings scattered across the crime scene and found in the pockets of some of the casualties were familiar to Israelis and others and telling evidence of Middle East terrorist authorship.
The explosive device which caused such havoc and agony was small yet deadly – another pointer to the “professionalism” of the attackers. A similar device was discovered in time three years ago in a bomb-rigged car parked in Times Square New York and left there by the Pakistani student Faisal Shahzad.
Unlike the president, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had no compunctions about putting into words the general suspicion. Straight after the event, she said, “My understanding is that it’s a terrorist incident” – although it is too soon to say whether it was carried out by a foreign or domestic element.
Suspicion of a foreign hand was strengthened when the US media reported that a Saudi national suffering from severe burns was being questioned in hospital. The Boston Police Department denied the report and the FBI, now in charge of the case, said that no one has so far been taken into custody. They did not deny questioning “persons of interest.”
The first response to the explosions in Boston from Middle East itself came from Mohammad al-Chalabi the head of an extremist Jordanian Muslim Salafi group, who said he's "happy to see the horror in America…American blood isn't more precious than Muslim blood," he said. "Let the Americans feel the pain we endured by their armies occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and killing our people there."
A Mideast counterterrorism official based in Jordan said the blasts "carry the hallmark of an organized terrorist group, like al-Qaeda."
National Guard forces were streaming Tuesday into Boston in long convoys of armored Humvees.
Boston residents are in for upsets from the massive security measures that will continue throughout the week, as the area of the bombings is declared a crime scene and kept under lockdown; law enforcement officials patrol the streets and carry out random bag checks; and transport services are delayed.