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Apr 16, 2013 at 10:14pm IST

Obama says Boston bombings were an 'act of terror', vows justice will be done

Boston: US President Barack Obama admitted on Tuesday that the twin bombings in Boston were an "act of terror" and that the country's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the incident. Obama, who had refrained from using the word "terror" in his earlier address after the blasts, said the "Americans will not be terrorised" and that justice will be done.

In the biggest attacks on the US soil since 9/11, two explosions ripped through the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people and injuring 150 others. "This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror," Obama told the White House press corps in Washington.

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A Boston-area apartment was one focus of a wide-ranging police investigation on Tuesday as authorities pursued clues into who carried out the bombing attack. Police overnight searched an apartment in Revere, about 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Boston, that was the residence of a person whose connection to the event is under investigation, law enforcement sources said.

"What we don't yet know, however, is who carried out this attack or why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organisation, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual. That's what we don't yet know," Obama said.

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Obama issued a proclamation to fly the national flag at half-staff in honor of the blasts victims. In his remarks, the US President vowed to bring to justice all those who were responsible for this act of terror.

Obama was updated on the investigation overnight by his homeland security and counter-terrorism aide, Lisa Monaco. The president was also due to be briefed on the explosions later by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Monaco and other senior staff.

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Government officials and the FBI had earlier assured the people of Boston that the situation was under control and that the investigations into the bombings were on.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had also warned of heightened police presence in the city. He had said only two explosives, the ones that exploded, were found at the blasts site and that no other explosives have been recovered.

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"We're at the beginning of our investigation. It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened, but we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens, and we will bring them to justice," he said.

Obama said he has directed his administration to take appropriate security measures to protect the American people. "This is a good time for all of us to remember that we all have a part to play in alerting authorities. If you see something suspicious, speak up," he said.

Obama said more details would be made available as and when they become available. "What I've indicated to you is what we now know. We know it was bombs that were set off. We know that, obviously, they did some severe damage. We do not know who did them. We do not know whether this was an act of an organisation or an individual or individuals. We don't have a sense of motive yet," he said.

"So everything else at this point is speculation. But as we receive more information, as the FBI has more information, as our counterterrorism teams have more information, we will make sure to keep you and the American people posted," he said. "So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that's it: selflessly, compassionately, unafraid," said the US President.

A stretch of Boylston Street near the race's finish line and the blocks around it were closed to traffic as police searched for evidence of the identity of who placed the bombs packed with ball bearings to maximize casualties. It was the worst bombing on US soil since security was tightened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A banner that had marked the race's finish line still hung over the deserted street. Police searched the Revere residence of a Saudi Arabian student who was injured in the blasts, according to law enforcement sources.

One of the sources said the student was the main lead investigators are looking into, but he has not been labeled a suspect. Katherine Gulotta, a spokeswoman for the FBI, which has taken over the lead in the investigation, declined to confirm or deny the reports.

The blasts put police on alert in major cities across the United States, including Washington and New York City, the sites of the September 11 attacks. The annual Boston Marathon, held since 1897, attracts an estimated half-million spectators and some 20,000 participants every year.

In Britain, organizers said the London Marathon would go ahead on Sunday despite the Boston attack, but security was being reviewed. The Madrid Marathon also planned to proceed on Sunday, but security plans were under review, a Spanish official said.

"After what happened in Boston we'll have to look into whether we need to review our plans. Since yesterday we are coordinating with municipal security and local government," Pedro Rumbao, director of the Madrid marathon, told Spanish National Radio. Runners who had traveled to the city for the race remained in shock on Tuesday morning.

Pat Monroe-DuPrey, of Winter Haven, Florida, ran with his wife, Laura, in a trip to mark their 10th anniversary after being married during the race. He said he did not know what to make of the blast, which came as he was finishing the race in a state of exhaustion. "You don't have a brain at 26 miles," Monroe-DuPrey said. "They got us off the course, and then I was panicking."

(With Additional Inputs From Reuters and PTI)