NEW YORK: A vehicle packed with explosives detonated on Christmas morning in the US city of Nashville after running an eerie countdown on a loudspeaker interspersed with appeals to people to clear the area.
As of Friday night, officials did not announce any arrest or give a likely motive behind the explosion of the recreational vehicle (RV), or motor home, that damaged several buildings and interrupted telecommunications leading to the temporary shutdown of the local airport's operations.
Initially officials said that there were no deaths, but later Police Chief John Drake said that some material that could be human remains were found near the RV and were being tested for confirmation. Three people were injured by the explosion and hospitalised.
Casualties were limited because of the warning to evacuate and because of early morning on a holiday. Officials euphemistically described the incident as an "intentional act", avoiding the terrorism label although explosion had its hallmarks.
Mayor John Cooper, who imposed a curfew in the area, would only go as far as saying that there was evidence that a "deliberate bomb was set off".
Police were called to the place where the RV was parked by reports of gunfire and when they arrived there, they heard a loudspeaker blaring a warning asking residents to leave the area because there was a bomb, according to Drake.
In a Nashville Channel 5 TV broadcast of the recording, a voice that sounded like that of a woman repeated with an undistinguished American accent in a monotone characteristic of public announcements like, "this area must be evacuated now" and "if you can hear this message evacuate now" interspersed with a countdown.
The serious disruption from the explosion came from damage to an AT&T telecommunication facility in front of which the RV was parked. As a result, emergency and police phone lines went down for a while and the flights were grounded at the local airport.
One building had collapsed according to officials. Cooper said that about 40 businesses in the area were affected.
White House Deputy Spokesperson Judd Deere said that President Donald Trump, who is holidaying in Florida, had been briefed about the explosion and that he was grateful to the work of the first responders.
President-elect Joe Biden's office issued a near-identical statement about him also being briefed. A motive for the attack in Nashville, the capital of Tennessee state famous as a centre of country music, was not clear.
In a bizarre incident in June, the state's major newspaper, the Tennessean, which is owned by the nation's largest newspaper company Gannett, published ads by a Christian fundamentalist group about an attack the next month in Nashville.
The newspaper stopped the full-page ads after some had already been published out and apologised for publishing what it called a "pseudo-religious 'prophecy', including the declaration of an impending nuclear attack in Nashville by 'Islam'" by a "fringe religious group".
The local Fox TV station identified the group behind the ad as Future for America, a Christian fundamentalist group that claims on its website that according to the Bible the end of the world is imminent. (IANS)
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