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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

On trail of serial Austin bombings, no evident motive, many questions

It took the police weeks to find him, as he avoided CCTV cameras by wearing a blonde wig, and used the alias “Kelly Killmore” to ship packages to victims.

Written by Leela Murali | New Delhi | Updated: March 23, 2018 1:16:44 am
Austin bombing, austin Texas bombings, Austin bomber dead, Austin suicide bomber, Mark Conditt, World news, Indian Express Chased by police vehicles the suspect (in red truck) blew himself up. (Photo: Reuters)

The serial bombings in Austin, Texas, stopped on Wednesday after Mark Anthony Conditt, the 23-year-old suspect, blew himself up. The police have recovered a cellphone video in which Conditt is believed to have confessed to making bombs and planting them across the city. However, law enforcement agencies have failed to ascribe a motive to the crime.

What is this story?

Between March 2 and March 20, six mysterious package bombs exploded in the city of Austin in the United States. Two people were killed and five wounded in the blasts. The first explosion on March 2 killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House. As police struggled for clues for 10 days, a second blast took place on March 12, killing Draylen Mason (17), and injuring his mother. The third explosion took place on the same day, injuring a 75-year-old woman. Another few days passed — then, on March 18, a bomb went off on a sidewalk in the city, injuring two men. Two days later, a fifth explosion rocked a FedEx sorting facility, in which one person was injured.

On the same day, another FedEx facility near the city’s airport alerted police about a suspicious package, which was later confirmed to have contained an explosive device. FedEx revealed that the two packages were shipped by the same person.

The last explosion was triggered by Conditt in his vehicle, and led to his death.

Austin, Texas, bomber kills himself Officials investigate a vehicle, center, where a suspect in the deadly bombings that terrorized Austin blew himself up as authorities closed in on him, in Round Rock, Texas, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. (AP/PTI Photo)

Who was Mark Anthony Conditt?

Conditt grew up in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin. The oldest of four children, he lived with roommates a few miles from his parents’ house. Conditt was homeschooled, and attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012. He worked briefly for a manufacturing company, and had never been in trouble with the law.

Conditt started a blog in 2012, in which he expressed his views on several issues including gay marriage, the death penalty, and eliminating sex offender registries.

But why did he plant these bombs?

In a confessional video that he left behind, Conditt did not reveal his reasons. Police initially suspected that the attacks were racially motivated, as the two individuals who lost their lives were African-American and Hispanic. However, that line of investigation has now been abandoned.

Austin, Texas, bomber kills himself A surveillance image shows the serial bombing suspect entering a FedEx office store in Austin, Texas, U.S. (Photo via Reuters)

Did Conditt make the bombs himself?

Police have recovered explosive material and bomb components from his house. Special agent Fred Milanowski told Reuters, “I wouldn’t call it a bomb-making factory, but there’s definitely components consistent with what we’ve seen in all these other devices.”

How was Conditt tracked down?

It took the police weeks to find him, as he avoided CCTV cameras by wearing a blonde wig, and used the alias “Kelly Killmore” to ship packages to victims. He drove around in a red truck, which helped the authorities identify him. The licence plate number of the vehicle was linked to his cellphone number. “The suspect’s cellphone number showed up at each of the bombing sites, as well as some key locations that helped them connect him to the crime,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told The New York Times. After Conditt’s cellphone was tracked, a chase ensued. On being surrounded by police vehicles, he detonated a bomb, killing himself.

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