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Last updated: April 18, 2013 6:47 pm
The investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings took its most significant step forward when the Federal Bureau of Investigation released surveillance pictures of two suspects it said it wanted to question.
Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field office, said on Thursday that the footage showed one of the suspects – whom he identified as “suspect two” – leaving a backpack at the site of the second of the two explosions near the marathon finishing line.
The pictures showed two apparently young men, one wearing a black baseball cap and the other a white one. Both were carrying backpacks through crowds around the annual marathon.
Mr DesLauriers said the FBI would release no further information about the hunt.
“Identifying and apprehending those responsible will now be our highest priority,” he said.
Mr DesLauriers also appealed to anyone who was at the Forum Restaurant – where the second suspect was seen dropping his backpack – around the time of the explosion to come forward if they had not already contacted investigators.
“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbours, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” he said. “Though it may be hard, the nation is counting on those people with information to come forward and give it to us.”
The suspects were considered to be “armed and extremely dangerous”, Mr DesLauriers said. But he stood by his earlier contention that there was no immediate further threat to Boston or the US generally.
“No one should approach them,” he said. “No one should attempt to apprehend them except law enforcement.”
Mr DesLauriers was speaking on the day that President Barack Obama came to Boston, near where he studied law at Harvard University, to lead the mourning at a service of healing at the city’s Holy Cross Roman Catholic cathedral. The two bombs, which went off about 3pm as runners were finishing the city’s annual marathon, killed three people and injured 176, 17 of them seriously. Mr Obama pledged that “a bomb cannot beat us”.
The FBI and its partners among the 30 agencies that make up the Boston area’s joint terrorism task force had initially developed a single “person of interest” based on video footage of the area of the blasts, Mr DesLauriers said. In the course of gathering information about him, the FBI had “developed” a second suspect, he said.
The two suspects were currently the only “persons of interest”, he added.
The pictures were the first significant development in the hunt for the perpetrators of the bombings, the highest-profile terrorist attack on US soil since the September 11 2001 attacks.
The FBI also stressed that the still pictures and videos it was posting on its website were the only ones on which the public should rely. That follows publication in a number of newspapers of other pictures purporting to identify suspects.
As investigators searched for clues at the site of the explosions around the marathon finish line, Mr Obama told those gathered at the morning memorial service “we carry on, we finish the race”.
Although the service cast the president in the now familiar role as consoler-in-chief, following his speeches after the massacres in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, Thursday’s event was as much a celebration of the city of Boston as it was about honouring the three dead, who included an eight-year-old boy and a graduate student from China.
“If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorise us, to shake us from . . . the values that make us who we are as Americans, well, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it,” Mr Obama said, earning a standing ovation.
He spoke about the city’s world-renowned universities which “year after year, welcome the greatest talents in the arts, in science, research” and which have created “a Boston diaspora that excels in every field of human endeavour”.
“Boston is your home town, but we claim it too,” added Mr Obama whose wife Michelle also studied at Harvard.
Tom Menino, Boston’s long-serving mayor, told the service he had never loved the city or its people more than in the aftermath of the bombing. Deval Patrick, the state’s governor, told the audience, to loud applause, that “Massachusetts invented America”.
Among the hundreds attending were Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, as well as members of the emergency services, people injured in the bombing and doctors who helped at the scene.
The service in the Roman Catholic cathedral also involved leaders of other faiths, including Boston’s Greek Orthodox metropolitan bishop, a rabbi and a representative of the American Islamic Congress. One speaker, Nasser Wedaddy, an immigrant from Mauritania, revealed that he had become a US citizen only last week in Faneuil Hall, in the heart of Boston.
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