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4th blast in Austin leads police to believe a ‘serial bomber’ is on the loose

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19 MAR 18 17:02 ET

(CNN) — Austin police just confirmed what residents have feared for weeks — a suspected serial bomber is attacking their city.

For the fourth time this month, a device exploded on Austin residents. What makes Sunday night’s blast especially terrifying is that the device was left on the side of a residential road and triggered by a tripwire, police said Monday.

Investigators have found similarities between that device and three previous bombs, which were stuffed inside packages and left on residents’ doorsteps, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.

“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point,” he said.

Timeline of the bombings

The latest device — which was triggered by a tripwire — shows “a higher level of sophistication, a higher level of skill,” he said.

And unlike the victims of the previous blasts, the two men wounded in Sunday’s explosion are white, Austin police said. Both men are expected to recover.

Latest developments

  • The Travis Country neighborhood of Austin was on lockdown Monday, Manley said, as authorities investigate the pieces of evidence strewn across a wide area.
  • Manley asked anyone in the neighborhood with security camera footage to call police.
  • The Austin public school district says it couldn’t send buses to the affected neighborhood Monday because of police activity.
  • “As the bomb maker changes up design and geography, all residents of Austin and surrounding areas should avoid suspicious items,” the global think tank Stratfor Threat Lens said.

An indiscriminate wake-up call

Many minority residents in Austin have been on edge since the bombings started, as the first three bombings killed or wounded minorities.

Several residents under lockdown Monday said they were stunned the latest attack happened in their neighborhood.

Unlike the first three bombings, which happened in east Austin, the latest attack happened in a predominantly white part of town.

Eliza May said because the first three bombings happening on the east side of the city, in predominantly minority areas, she hadn’t been following the news closely.

May said that as a resident of the affluent Travis Country neighborhood, she assumed she had nothing to worry about.

“We feel safe. This isn’t something that you’d expect around here,” May said.

Now, “it’s obvious that you have to be alert.”

“This was a random bomb,” she said. “This could have been any one of us.”

Neighbor Shonda Mace said the bombing “is going to be (a) life-changing event for our neighborhood.”

“I’m scared about what’s going to happen next,” she said.

Tripwire could give clues

“The use of a tripwire is far less discriminating than leaving parcel bombs at residences and suggests that the latest victims were not specifically targeted,” Stratfor Threat Lens said.

“The device’s success, despite significantly different design, further suggests that the bomb maker behind these attacks is an accomplished one, and has likely to have received some training, perhaps as a military or police explosive ordnance disposal technician.”

Austin bombings: Live updates

‘Extra level of vigilance’ needed

The latest blast came less than a week after police said the three previous explosions — in a span of 10 days — were connected. Those blasts killed a man and a teenager, and wounded two others.

The victims in those three explosions were African-American or Hispanic. Police have not discovered a motive, but have not ruled out the possibility those bombings could be hate crimes.

Police are working under the belief that the explosions are related. Manley said they’ll get a better idea with a post-blast analysis and examination of the device components.

In the meantime, Manley told residents not to touch or go near anything that looks suspicious.

“We now need the community to have an extra level of vigilance and pay attention to any suspicious device — whether it be a package or a bag, a backpack — anything that looks out of place,” Manley said Monday. “Do not approach items like that.”

Shortly before the fourth bombing, the reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible for the three blasts increased to a total of $115,000, authorities said.

Officials have urged residents to call police with any tips they may have, even if the information seems to be “inconsequential.”

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Crime

Yulia Skripal Statement

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“I was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital on the 9th April 2018. I was treated there with obvious clinical expertise and with such kindness, that I have found I missed the staff immediately.

“I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.

“I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me.

“I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken. I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can. At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.

“Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do. Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves. I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.

“For the moment I do not wish to speak to the press or the media, and ask for their understanding and patience whilst I try to come to terms with my current situation.”

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Shots reported near YouTube headquarters in California

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “YouTube shooting: one dead after incident at California headquarters” was written by Olivia Solon in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 3rd April 2018 21.47 UTC

One person is dead and four wounded after a shooting at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California, police say.

The San Bruno police chief said that the fatality, a woman, could be the shooter and appeared to die as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Employees posted about barricading themselves inside rooms as police and ambulances arrived at the scene.

“Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers,” Vadim Lavrusik, a YouTube employee, posted to Twitter.

A spokesman for San Francisco General Hospital said that the hospital had received three patients, one in critical condition. The patients are a 32-year-old woman in serious condition, a 27-year-old woman in fair condition, and a 36-year-old man in critical condition. The nearby Stanford hospital is expecting four to five patients of unknown condition, a hospital spokeswoman Lisa Kim said.

Zach Vorhies, a senior software engineer at YouTube, told the Guardian that he was at his desk when the fire alarm went off. As he passed through an interior courtyard between the main building and the parking garage he saw a man on the ground with what appears to be a bullet wound to the stomach. He heard what he assumed to be the shooter shout “come and get me!” and saw police with assault weapons responding.

Project manager Todd Sherman said he was sitting in a meeting when he heard people running to leave the building. Upon exiting the room he saw “blood drips on the floor and stairs” and heard people say there was a potential shooter before he managed to escape the building.

“Police cruisers pull up, hopped out with rifles ready and I told them where the situation was as I headed down the street to meet up with a couple team members,” he said.

Aerial footage shot by CBS News shows staff leaving the building with their hands in the air. Offices of other companies nearby were also on lockdown.

“My stomach sinks with yet another active shooter alert,” said California senator Dianne Feinstein. “I’m praying for the safety of everyone at YouTube headquarters.”

The incident comes during a renewed debate over American gun control laws, following a 14 February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and teachers dead. Hundreds of thousands of Americans demonstrated for stricter gun laws on 24 March in Washington and across the country.

With Republicans in Congress blocking any new gun control legislation, much of the activism after the Parkland shooting has shifted to the private sector, with advocates pressuring corporations to drop discounts for National Rifle Association members, change their policies for selling certain weapons and accessories, or divest from companies that manufacture firearms. When a Fox News host tweeted disparagingly about a Parkland activist not getting into his top colleges, the 17-year-old successfully called for advertisers to boycott her show.

YouTube is one of the companies that introduced new policies after the Parkland shooting. In late March, it quietly debuted restrictions on some gun-related video content, Bloomberg News reported, including prohibiting videos promoting the sale of bump stocks or instructing users how to manufacture firearms or high-capacity magazines

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers, called YouTube’s new policy “worrisome” in a statement to Bloomberg News in late March.

YouTube has also come under scrutiny for the way its platforms have been used after mass shootings to spread conspiracy theories that mass shootings are hoaxes perpetrated to advance gun control, and that grieving survivors and family members of shooting victims who appear in the media are “crisis actors”.

  • Lois Beckett contributed reporting

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MULTIPLE SUSPICIOUS PACKAGES SENT TO DC AREA MILITARY INSTALLATIONS

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The FBI has taken custody of multiple suspicious packages sent to military locations in the Washington, DC area, a law enforcement official said Monday. The official said two of the packages were sent to Fort Belvoir and Fort McNair.

At least one package, sent to the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, contained explosive material and was ultimately rendered safe. That package arrived at 8:30 a.m. ET and the building was evacuated immediately, according to Army spokesman Michael L. Howard.

“At 12:10 p.m., 52nd Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal from Fort Belvoir, VA, confirmed the package tested positive for black powder and residue,” Howard said in a statement. “The X-ray conducted indicates suspected GPS and an expedient fuse were attached. The package was rendered safe. No injuries are reported.”

Scanning machines at the facilities detected the suspicious materials upon receipt and the packages are being examined at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, the law enforcement official said.

The National Defense University at Fort McNair was cleared for re-entry after K-9 sweep and personnel returned to the building by 1:15 pm ET.

Another Army spokesman confirmed a suspicious package incident at Fort Belvoir and said that package has been rendered safe.

(CNN)

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