Yesterday’s bomb attack on the Boston Marathon is indeed a tragedy. So far, 176 people are known to have been injured — many very seriously — and three to have been killed. It is natural that people want to know who perpetrated the atrocity. In the lack of firm knowledge, speculation runs rampant.
Some news media have focused on the fact that a Saudi national is in a Boston hospital suffering from injuries received in one of the blasts. He is reported to be under police guard and is labeled Person of Interest in many media accounts. The term has no legal meaning other than that police officials want to know what this person might know. So far, according to the media, the Saudi has been cooperating with investigators and his apartment in a nearby Boston suburb has been searched. Whether the search came about because he gave police permission or because a search warrant was issued is not clear.
Some media have drawn conclusions without hard evidence. A blog post at The Moderate Voice makes clear that this is a bit premature and depends on unsourced information. It is not good journalism. Nor was the Tweet coming from a news pundit that — sarcastically, he said — called for “all Muslims to be killed.”
We do know, from reports in Saudi media, that at least two Saudi nationals were injured. The reports are awkward for the Saudi government because they come after the Royal Court had issued (prematurely) a statement saying that no Saudi students were injured. While I commend the government for trying to assuage the concerns of parents, there are times when a bit of hesitation is better. If I read the story from Al Arabiya TV correctly, one of the Saudis is a woman.
Two Saudi nationals were injured by Monday’s twin blasts in Boston and are currently being hospitalized at the city’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
One of the injured is a 20-year-old man whose name has not been disclosed, while the other is an unnamed exchange student.
The student’s friend told Al Arabiya that the victim’s leg was severely injured and doctors almost amputated it. She added however that a surgical procedure succeeded in saving her leg.
Two bombs exploded in the crowded streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140 in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S.
The two Saudis were injured despite previous statements from the Saudi cultural attaché, reported by pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, saying there are no injuries and that they were working to ensure all students were safe.
Now, it is entirely possible that the Saudi ‘person of interest’ had something to do with the attack. But it also entirely possible that he had nothing to do with it other than to be in the proximity of the explosions. Some have reported that he was seen ‘running away from’ an explosion. That seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do, whether one has a heart as black as coal or as pure as the driven snow. The fact means nothing in itself.
The myriad federal and local agencies taking part in the investigation are calling for anyone who might have video or photos of the area just before, during, and after the explosions to send them in for analysis. This is likely the most photographed terrorist attack in the history of the world. There were thousands of cameras of different sorts at the finish line of the marathon. It’s very possible that some of the captured imagery may be of use. It might even have caught the perpetrator in the act. This, again, is something we just don’t know at present.
Investigations into attacks like this are chaotic and remain so for at least the first 24 hours. There are reports from numerous people, but each report comes from a single, narrow perspective. Many reports conflict. Many reports are simply and obviously wrong — the witness didn’t actually see what he or she thinks was observed. It takes time to sort out the pieces, clarify contradictions, and start putting the pieces together into a narrative whole which itself may or may not be correct. Yet more time is needed to assess differing analyses.
As frustrating as it is, there’s really no good option other than to wait.
Of course, waiting has its own downsides. In the lack of an official story, there’s more than enough room for conspiracy theories to arise and then be spread at the speed of light across the Internet. Alas, this, too, is already taking place.