Package explodes at FedEx facility near San Antonio

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Texaa bombings photoJason Hanna and Madison Park, CNN

(CNN) Authorities are looking at a package that exploded early Tuesday at a FedEx sorting center near San Antonio and a parcel discovered at a location near Austin to see whether they are connected to four bombings in the Texas capital, a federal official with knowledge of the investigation said.

Tuesday’s blast, which officials said injured one FedEx worker in Schertz, Texas, came as four explosions, two of them deadly, have rattled Austin, about an hour’s drive to the northeast, since March 2.

The latest developments, including the revelation of the second package and hundreds more reports of dubious parcels, added to the anxiety that one official described as “absolute panic.”

There was confusion about the second package. Earlier, San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus said there was a second suspicious package at the Schertz facility.

The federal official clarified with CNN that the second package being discussed was discovered at a sorting facility near the Austin airport and not in Schertz.

A FedEx spokesman said of the person who sent the package that exploded, “The individual responsible also shipped a second package that has now been secured and turned over to law enforcement.” FedEx didn’t say where the package was when it was secured.

The company also gave law enforcement “extensive evidence related to these packages and the individual that shipped them collected from our advanced technology security systems,” Jim McCluskey added in a statement.

Timeline of the bombings

Key developments

• The FBI is investigating a “confirmed link” between packages involved in the Austin investigations and a mail delivery office in Sunset Valley, southwest of downtown Austin, police in Sunset Valley said Tuesday. They did not indicate which packages were connected to the Sunset Valley office.

• At the Schertz FedEx facility, a package that was moving along an automated conveyor exploded around 12:25 a.m. Tuesday, Schertz Police Chief Michael Hansen said.

• A worker standing near the explosion suffered minor injuries and was treated and released, officials said.

An ATF vehicle sits at a FedEx sorting center where a package exploded Tuesday in Schertz, Texas.

An ATF vehicle sits at a FedEx sorting center where a package exploded Tuesday in Schertz, Texas.

• Preliminary information indicates there could be a connection between the Schertz blast and the four Austin explosions, FBI San Antonio spokeswoman Michelle Lee said.

• But FBI special agent James Smith said it was too early to know whether the Schertz blast was connected to any of the ones in Austin, which killed two people and injured four others over 17 days.

• If the FedEx explosion is confirmed to be linked to the Austin blasts, it would represent a new method for the bomber or bombers. None of the four previous explosives was mailed, police have said.

• Hansen, the Schertz police chief, said he was confident the package that exploded there was not meant to target that facility or the city, though he wouldn’t say why.

• The FBI’s Smith declined to answer reporters’ questions about whether the package that blew up was destined for Austin. Smith also said he had no reason to believe people in Schertz face any threat.

• There have been more than 1,200 calls about suspicious packages that have come in since March 12, Austin police said.

• President Donald Trump did not comment when asked Tuesday if he thought the bombings were acts of domestic terrorism. Trump called the situation “absolutely disgraceful” and said of those responsible: “We have to find them really immediately.”

The four Austin bombings

In Austin, authorities have been combing for clues to the four explosions there, the first three of which involved cardboard packages left in front yards or porches. They weren’t delivered by the US Postal Service or services such as UPS or FedEx, police say.

Those three explosions — one on March 2 and two more on March 12 — killed or wounded three African-American people and one Hispanic person. The blasts happened in east Austin areas that predominantly have minority residents, and some in the area expressed concern the attacks might have been racially motivated.

Police have not uncovered a motive and have not ruled out the possibility those bombings could be hate crimes.

In the fourth blast, a device Sunday was triggered by a tripwire, injuring two white men, police said. It had been left on the side of a road in a predominantly white area. Those men are in good condition at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, a hospital representative said.”The use of a tripwire is far less discriminating than leaving parcel bombs at residences and suggests that (Sunday’s) victims were not specifically targeted,” the global think tank Stratfor said in one of its Threat Lens reports.

If one perpetrator is behind all five blasts, then the person deployed an unusually wide range of skills and delivery methods, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano said.

“Some of these folks … as long as the bombmaker walks away with 10 fingers and 10 toes, that’s successful to them,” said Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent.

“But the method, the delivery system and the different means that he’s having these things in place shows that he’s trying to show — if it’s the same person on all five of these — a full panoply of different ways of doing this,” he added, “and that’s frightening.”

Three members of the Congressional Black Caucus called Monday for federal officials to classify the bombings as terrorist attacks and determine whether they are “ideologically or racially motivated.”

The NAACP called the incidents “acts of domestic terrorism” and called for vigilance and caution for communities in Austin.

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