Explosion in Elizabeth, New Jersey While Police Robot Works on Suspicious Backpack

A suspicious device found in a trash can near a New Jersey train station exploded early Monday as a bomb squad was attempting to disarm it with a robot, officials said.

A backpack that appeared to contain pipe bombs exploded Monday about 12:30 a.m. ET as a police robot was being used to assess the contents of the backpack near an Elizabeth, New Jersey transit station.

Elizabeth, New Jersey Mayor Chris Bollwage told reporters the bomb squad robot was “cutting into the device when it exploded” in Elizabeth, N.J. A spokesman for Bollwage initially described the blast as a controlled detonation.

Two men, who initially found the backpack and were not suspects, moved the backpack, thinking that it contained valuables. They had carried the backpack about 1,000 feet before became tired because of the weight of the backpack. They set it down next to an an SUV under the New Jersey Transit overpass on Broad Street near the downtown train station, according to mayor Bollwage.

The two men had walked out of Hector’s Place Restaurant near the train station before they found the backpack resting on top of a municipal garbage can.

After finding that the backpack contained “wires and a pipe,” the mayor said, the men dropped the item in the street and contacted the Elizabeth Police Department around 8:45 p.m. When Elizabeth police responded, they requested the Union County bomb squad respond to the scene. The investigation and response was quickly turned over to the F.B.I. and the New Jersey State Police, according to Mayor Bollwage.

The F.B.I. sent a pair of robots and determined that the backpack held five bombs, some of which were pipe bombs, the mayor said.

About 12:30 a.m., the robots tried to clip a wire to disarm one bomb and accidentally detonated it, the mayor said.

The explosion was the second uncontrolled detonation in New Jersey since Saturday morning when a bomb was found in a garbage can near military charity run. An explosion from a bomb in a dumpster also injured 29 people in Manhattan Saturday night.

An explosive device found in a backpack near the Elizabeth train station exploded as a robot was being used to examining the backpack. No one was injured.

Several law enforcement are concerned now that an active terror cell with multiple players could be at work in the New York-New Jersey area.

About 8:45 p.m. ET Sunday law enforcement officers stopped a “vehicle of interest” near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York for investigation of the Chelsea New York blast, according to the FBI. Five people were being questioned by the FBI early Monday, but were not charged.

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