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Athletics | Running

Rita Jeptoo and Lelisa Desisa Benti © Gallo Images

Explosions rock Boston Marathon



Two explosions near the crowded finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday killed three people and injured more than 140 others (source: CNN) amid terrifying scenes at the world's oldest and most prestigious race, authorities said.

A senior US intelligence official said two other explosive devices were found near the marathon finish line.

There was no word on the motive or who may have launched the attack, and authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Some 27 000 runners took part in the 42km race, one of the world's premier marathons and one of Boston's biggest annual events.

After the explosions, mobile phone service was shut down in the area to prevent any possible remote explosive detonations, a law enforcement official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads checked parcels and bags left along the race route.

The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft from within 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) of the site.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the explosions by Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco. Obama also told Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick that his administration would provide whatever support was needed, the White House said.

About two hours after the winners crossed the line, there was a loud explosion on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. Another explosion could be heard a few seconds later.

The Boston Police Department said two people were killed. Hospitals reported at least 57 injured, at least eight of them critically. CNN later reported that 3 were now confirmed dead, and over140 were injured, many critically.

A senior US intelligence official said the two other explosive devices found nearby were being dismantled. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.

Runners who had not finished the race were diverted straight down Commonwealth Avenue and into a family meeting area, according to an emergency plan that had been in place.

Vice-president Joe Biden was on a conference call with gun control activists when staffers turned on televisions in his office Monday to view coverage of the explosions. Biden said during the call that his prayers were with those who suffered injuries.

"I don't know any of the details of what caused it, who did it. I don't think it exists yet. But our prayers are with those people in Boston who suffered injury," Biden said."

Shortly after the explosions, Secret Service shut down Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, cordoning off the area with yellow police tape. Several Secret Service patrol cars also blocked off the entry points to the road.

The White House was not on lockdown and tourists and other onlookers were still able to be in the park across the street from the executive mansion.

Attorney General Eric Holder directed the full resources of the Justice Department be deployed to investigate and a department official said Holder has spoken with FBI Director Robert Mueller. The official said the US attorney for Massachusetts's office was co-ordinating the Justice Department's response with the FBI and other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities.

Cities worldwide stepped up security following the explosions.

In Britain, police said they were reviewing security plans for Sunday's London Marathon, the next major international marathon. Thousands of people compete in the London Marathon every year, thronging the city's streets. London is also considered a top target for international terrorists.

A London Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed Monday that police are working with marathon officials to review security plans for Sunday's event. The London race's chief executive, Nick Bitel, expressed shock and sadness about the situation in Boston, saying "it is a very sad day for athletics and for our friends in marathon running."

In New York City, police spokesman Paul Browne said that critical response teams are deployed around the city. Officials were stepping up security at hotels and other prominent locations.

Police at three major Los Angeles area airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, were in a "heightened state of vigilance," with increased patrols to make it visible that more police were on duty Monday, said Chief of Airport Police Patrick Gannon.

Race day got started with 26 seconds of silence in honour of the victims of the December school massacre in Connecticut. A little more than 2 hours later, the lead runners passed the Mile 26 marker, which was decorated with the Newtown, Connecticut, seal and dedicated to the memory of those killed there.

Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio previously said there was "special significance" to the fact that the race is 26.2 miles long and 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

The annual marathon attracts more than 500 000 spectators. It takes place on Patriot's Day, a state holiday that celebrates the evacuation of Boston by the British in the American Revolution.



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