Internet vigilantes speculate as authorities identify Boston bombing suspect in CCTV footage

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Video from department store close to second explosion appeared to show person 'dropping a black bag'

Washington

In a potentially vital first breakthrough, investigators were said to have identified a suspect in Monday's double bombing of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 170 others in America's bloodiest terrorist incident since the 9/11 attacks.

A law enforcement source said officials had "made a clear identification of a potential suspect" using CCTV video footage taken from the Lord & Taylor department store near the location of the second explosion, according to CNN.

An image of a potential suspect "carrying, and perhaps dropping, a black bag" at the scene of the second bombing on Boylston Street had been obtained by authorities, the Boston Globe reported. The development came as federal and local investigators pored over the twisted fragments of a pressure cooker, shards of metal shrapnel, shreds of nylon, and thousands upon thousands of photos and video clips, to track down the author of the attacks.

Simultaneously, a picture was emerging of the two fairly primitive devices – widely sold pressure cookers, loaded with gunpowder, nails, ball-bearings and shrapnel, and detonated by simple timers, rather than by remote control.

The home-made bombs appear to have been carried in nylon backpacks or bags, which were left along the closing stretch of the race.

As news of the CCTV footage emerged, internet users began attempting to take the law into their own hands, with a group posting a 57-picture album on website imgur.com featuring  people wearing black backpacks.

On social news site Reddit, one group had more than 100 threads speculating on CCTV images. However, one user cautioned against users taking matters into their own hands.

"We do not condone vigilante justice. Our aim is simply to provide tips for the FBI, not to take matters into our own hands," a user known as Rather_Confused said in a posting. "While it’s admirable to help, posting information on anyone noted in pictures could have a devastating effect on their life."

Adding to the tension across the nation, the Secret Service in Washington announced that a letter to Barack Obama containing a "suspicious substance" had been intercepted at an off-site screening centre where mail to the White House is routinely inspected.

This letter, according to early media reports, was "similar" to one containing traces of the poison ricin which arrived on Tuesday at the Capitol Hill offices of Mississippi's Republican Senator Roger Wicker, and possibly other senators as well. In response, Congressional police briefly cleared parts of two Senate buildings over concerns over suspicious letters and a package.

Later, Paul Curtis, 45, was arrested at his flat in connection with the packages. Authorities however stressed there was no indication that any of these developments in the capital were connected with the Boston outrage.

Nonetheless, the sequence of events is eerily reminiscent of 12 years ago when, as the country reeled from the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, items of mail containing anthrax spores – far deadlier than ricin – were addressed to two Democratic senators and various media offices. Across the political heart of Washington, security precautions have been heightened, reflecting the current jittery mood.

But the main focus remains on Boston, where the FBI released pictures of a ripped backpack and the remains of a pressure cooker saucepan which it believes were used in the explosions. Today, the lid of a pressure cooker was discovered on the roof of a building close to the finishing stretch of the race along Boylston Street, one of the busiest east-west thoroughfares in downtown Boston.

The hope is that the pictures will jog memories, particularly at the stores where the items might have been purchased, or among people who might have seen a neighbour acting, in retrospect, suspiciously. Despite the hints of major progress, investigators warn that the probe could yet be long and painstaking.

All the items believed to have been used for the bombings are very easily obtainable. The pressure cooker model, for instance, is apparently made by a Spanish company, which sells some 50,000 of them annually in the US. They are reportedly stocked by no less than nine retailers within a mile of the marathon finish line.

In a separate part of the intricate jigsaw puzzle, the FBI and police have been combing through vast numbers of photos and video clips of the bomb scene, before and after the explosions, using state-of-the-art facial recognition technology. "We will go through every frame of every video to determine who exactly was in the area," said Boston police commissioner Edward Davis. On the day of the race, he added, "this was probably one of the most photographed areas in the entire country".

Today a near mile-long stretch of Boylston Street and adjacent blocks were still closed off, 48 hours after the two blasts, that authorities believe were deliberately planned to kill and maim as many people as possible.

According to a July 2010 intelligence report by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department, pressure-cooker explosives have been employed in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, while one of the three devices used in an attempted bombing in Times Square in 2010 used a pressure cooker. The technique moreover has been promoted by al-Qa'ida's branch in Yemen, which gave a detailed description of how to make a pressure cooker bomb in a 2010 issue of Inspire, its English-language online publication, targeted at aspiring terrorists who act alone.

"We don't know whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organisation, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual," Mr Obama said. He is due to fly into Boston today for an interfaith service.

Meanwhile Iran, the US's fiercest critic in the Islamic world, condemned the Boston bombings, yet criticised the US for employing a double standard over drone attacks that kill innocent civilians. The Islamic Republic "is opposed to any bombings and killings of innocent people no matter if it is in Boston, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria and condemns it," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian military leaders in Tehran. But he attacked the Obama administration for killing people with drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "What kind of logic is it that if children and women are killed by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan… it is is not a problem, but if a bombing happens in the US or another Western country, the whole world should pay the cost?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas