By Esme E. Deprez, Danielle Ivory and Michelle Kaske
(Updated, 9:50 p.m.)
BOSTON - Powerful bombs killed three people and injured scores near the finish of the Boston Marathon, turning one of the world’s oldest road races into bloody chaos.
The explosions, which investigators were treating as acts of terror, occurred as recreational runners were finishing about 2:50 p.m. local time today, police said. The first, near Copley Square, caused a huge puff of white and orange smoke and was followed by a smaller one. Runners fell to the ground, which was splattered with blood. Two more explosives were found and dismantled, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official.
At least 77 people were hospitalized, with eight in critical condition, including two children, officials said.
“This is the sort of carnage you expect to see in war,” Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital, where victims were taken, said at a news briefing.
Boston police have no suspect in custody, Commissioner Ed Davis said at a news briefing. NBC News and Fox News reported that a wounded man was under guard in a hospital.
“We still do not know who did this or why,” President Barack Obama, said in a briefing at the White House. “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
The president declined to answer a question on whether the attacks were acts of terrorism.
The U.S. had no information that any foreign group was planning an attack today, said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee.
“We’ve known for some time that a public event where there were a lot of people would be subject to this possibility,” she said.
The blasts at the race, which attracts about 25,000 runners and 500,000 spectators each year, follow several bombing attempts since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 21-year-old man from Bangladesh, pleaded guilty in February to planning to bomb the New York Federal Reserve last year.
In 2010, Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life in prison for driving a car containing an explosive into New York’s Times Square, and Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to supporting al Qaeda and plotting in 2009 to attack New York subways.
Nor was today’s attack the first bombing of a major U.S. sporting event.
A blast at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on July 26, 1996, killed one and injured more than 100 people. Eric Robert Rudolph, an anti-abortion activist, admitted detonating the 40-pound pipe bomb.
The Boston Marathon, first run in 1897, is considered the most prestigious in the U.S. and occurs every Patriot’s Day, a citywide holiday celebrating the first battles of the American Revolution. Its 26.2-mile course runs from Hopkinton to downtown Boston.
John Hanlon, a 38-year-old Dorchester, Mass., resident who was with his wife and two of their children near the finish line, said the blasts happened at about the “thickest time” for runners finishing the race. The elite athletes crossed the line hours earlier.
“People were screaming and grabbing their families and getting the hell out of there,” he said.
Walter Antos, of Boulder, Colo., said the explosion about a block away was “100 times louder than thunder.” Phil Kirkpatrick, a 59-year-old from Nashville, was watching his girlfriend race when the explosions went off and saw a man with his foot blown off in a medical tent.
“I was crawling on the sidewalk, and my cell phone blew out of my hand,” he said.
USA Today, as well as other publications, had set up live blogging on its site that included both reportage and photos.
The Washington Post reported that thousands of runners were still on the course when the explosions occurred, knocking over a number of them as they approached the finish line.