Mystery surrounds the motivation behind an apparent bomb blast on the streets of downtown Nashville that rocked Tennessee’s largest city on Christmas morning as investigators continued to search the wreckage for ‘clues.
Three people were slightly injured in the blast and possible human remains were found near the site of the camper van that exploded and caused severe damage to historic downtown Nashville. But it is not known if or how the remains are linked to the incident.
What is certain is the bizarre nature of the attack.
Police were responding to an early morning report of gunfire when they encountered the RV screaming a recorded warning that a bomb would explode in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said . Police evacuated neighboring buildings and called the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly after.
Police believe the explosion was intentional but do not yet know a motive or target, and Drake noted that those responsible had not received any threats before the explosion.
The chief said investigators at the scene “have found tissue that we believe may be remains, but we will have them examined and let you know at that time.” The police couldn’t tell if this was potentially coming from someone inside the RV.
Three people taken to area hospitals for treatment were in stable condition on Friday night, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said.
“This morning’s attack on our community was meant to sow chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope. But the Nashvillians have proven time and time again that the spirit of our city cannot be broken, ”Cooper said at a press conference after placing a curfew on the area.
The explosion sent black smoke and flames erupting from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area teeming with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows smashed streets away from the explosion near an AT&T-owned building that is one block from the company’s office tower, a downtown landmark .
On Saturday morning, teams of experts were still collecting debris in a large area of the explosion site. The damage to the AT&T building sparked speculation that it was the target of the attack.
“We don’t know if it was a coincidence, or if it was the intention,” said police spokesman Don Aaron. He said earlier that some people were taken to the central compound of the department for questioning, but declined to give details.
AT&T said the affected building was the central office of a telephone exchange, complete with network equipment. The explosion interrupted service, but the company declined to comment on how widespread the outages were.
The AT&T outage site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Several police departments reported that their 911 systems were down due to the outage, including Knox County, where Knoxville is located about 290 km east of Nashville.
AT&T said it was introducing portable cell sites and working with law enforcement to gain access to repairs to its equipment. The company noted that “food is essential to restore” service.
The Federal Aviation Administration has temporarily halted flights from Nashville Airport due to telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.
The FBI will take the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also at the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.