At approximately 2:00pm yesterday a device that seemed to have been placed in a dustbin on the corner of Queen and Frederick streets exploded, injuring 14 people and causing considerable concern and mild panic among the passers-by and people employed in the area of Port of Spain and its environs.
The blast was heard at Parliament and as far away as Park and Vincent Streets. Police, army and ambulances were mobilised almost immediately and sirens could be heard heading toward the area of the blast. Although there have been no reported fatalities, seriously injured was passer-by Yvonne Mc Ivor whose leg had to be amputated due to the severity of her injuries. Mc Ivor has not yet regained consciousness and her relatives are appealing for blood donors.
There were also reports yesterday of a 35-year-old male being shot in the abdomen soon after the explosion but no details as to the identity of the injured man or his shooter have been forthcoming.
National Security Minister, Martin Joseph and Trevor Paul, Commissioner of Police, left an Anti-Terrorism conference in Tobago to survey the scene and brief the Prime Minister. Reports indicate that they were transported to the scene in a helicopter that did considerable damage to evidence at the scene of the explosion much to the irritation of police officers and other officials on the scene. In a statement issued to the public, Prime Minster Patrick Manning urged the public to remain vigilant and advised citizens to be aware of any suspicious persons or packages and report any such activities. He urged the police to find the perpetrators of the incident and bring them swiftly to justice.
While Mayor Murchison Brown recommended that the city be evacuated there was no real panic among the citizenry. People appeared to be moving calmly out of the city as quickly as possible although many motorists trying to leave the city experienced gridlock traffic jams. There have been numerous reports of extreme traffic jams in the vicinity of the Queens Park Savannah where motorists attempted to drive through the savannah to avoid the gridlock. There have also been reports of several motorists being robbed in their cars while stuck in bumper-to-bumper, slow moving traffic along the Beetham Highway. However further accounts received this morning from eyewitnesses indicate that while reports of robberies were coming over the radio, they found traffic on the Beetham highway relatively undisturbed and were not aware of any such robberies.
As the afternoon wore on, reports began trickling in of bomb threats that had been received at the Ministry of National Security Headquarters earlier that morning and another at the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association later on in the day. By approximately 6:00pm another report was issued of a bomb threat at Trinity Mall.
Today, in the aftermath of the explosion, we appear to have few answers and even more questions. Police and military officials are adamant about not declaring yesterday’s explosion a terrorist attack; US bomb experts who are currently running training operations for the local K-9 units in bomb detection are assisting local military explosive experts and police officers; FBI officers are scheduled to arrive today to assist in investigation; and all army personnel have been placed on lock down. Military sources indicate that there was no motive, no specific target and no specific intent. Police have suggested that the bomb appeared to be a homemade device possibly created from rudimentary ingredients such as ammonium nitrate, which can be found in common fertilizer. On its own such a device would have been relatively harmless but being placed in the wrought iron bin made it potentially deadly. Officers also seem to be indicating that based on the rudimentary nature of the explosive device, the explosion could not be deemed an act of terror. If this is indeed so then certainly much is being done to unsettle the population and incite fear and panic.
Reports were received today of a bomb threat at City Gate. This morning commuters were forced to walk from as far as the Central Market and Coconut Growers building into Port of Spain. Official reports have confirmed that City Gate was locked down this morning due to the threat but the situation has since stabilized and operations there are back to normal. The public is advised that the area in the vicinity of the explosion has been declared a crime scene and cordoned off. All police stations have been placed on high alert and the Piarco International Airport has advised travellers to be aware of increased security measures.
The public should remain cognizant of the fact that in light of current events, it is unsurprising that bomb threats will abound and it would be wise to regard all new threats and reports of disturbances with 'a pinch of salt'.
Photos of Port of Spain following the bombing:
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