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Friday 27 April 2018

Texas bomber suspect dies after blowing up his own car as police Swat team closes in

Aerial footage shows police investigating the scene after the
suspect detonated a device at the side of a Texas highway
Aerial footage shows police investigating the scene after the suspect detonated a device at the side of a Texas highway

The suspect in the deadly bombings that terrorised Austin, Texas, blew himself up as authorities closed in on him, but police have warned that more bombs could be out there.

The man behind the attacks was identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, an unemployed 24-year-old who bought bomb-making materials at a Home Depot DIY store.

His motive remained a mystery, along with whether he acted alone in the five bombings in the Texas capital and suburban San Antonio that killed two people and wounded four others.

Police zeroed in on Conditt using store surveillance video, mobile phone signals and witness accounts of a strange-looking customer making purchases while wearing a disguise that included a blonde wig and gloves. Officers located his vehicle at a hotel in the suburb of Round Rock.

They were waiting for armoured vehicles to arrive before moving in for an arrest when his vehicle began to drive away, Austin police chief Brian Manley said at a news conference.

Authorities followed the vehicle, which ran into a ditch on the side of the road, he said.

When members of the Swat team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief said.

It is believed he was home schooled and later attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012, but according to a college spokeswoman he did not graduate.

Blogger

In posts dated from 2012, a blogger who identified himself as Mark Conditt of suburban Pflugerville wrote that gay marriage should be illegal.

He also called for the elimination of sex offender registrations and argued in favour of the death penalty. The mayor of Pflugerville, which is not far from the site of the first bombing, said the suspect lived in his city, just two streets from his house.

Austin was hit with four package bombings starting on March 2. A fifth parcel bomb went off early on Tuesday at a FedEx distribution centre near San Antonio.

Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Austin, said Conditt's "fatal mistake" was walking into a FedEx store to post a package because that allowed authorities to obtain surveillance video that showed him and his vehicle, along with his number plate.

From there, Mr McCaul told Austin television station KXAN, investigators could identify the suspect and eventually track him using his mobile phone.

Yesterday, police warned of the possibility that more bombs had yet to be found.

"We don't know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours, and therefore we still need to remain vigilant to ensure that no other packages or devices have been left to the community," Mr Manley said.

By midday, Pflugerville police began evacuating the area around the suspect's home to deploy a robot to check for explosives.

Fred Milanowski, an agent with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said it was "hard to say" if the bombing suspect had acted alone.

"What we do know is we believe the same person built each one of these devices," said Mr Milanowski.

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