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Closer look at bomber

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m.

As a SWAT team closed in, the suspected bomber whose deadly explosives terrorized Austin for three weeks used one of his own devices to blow himself up. But police warned that he could have planted more bombs before his death, and they cautioned the city to stay on guard.

Mark Anthony Conditt, an unemployed college dropout who bought bomb-making materials at Home Depot, was tracked down using store surveillance video, cellphone signals and witness accounts of a customer shipping packages in a disguise that included a blonde wig and gloves. His motive remained a mystery.

Police finally found the 23-year-old early Wednesday at a hotel in a suburb north of Austin known as the scene for filming portions of "Friday Night Lights." Officers prepared to move in for an arrest. When the suspect's sport utility vehicle began to drive away, they followed.

Conditt ran into a ditch on the side of the road, and SWAT officers approached. That's when he detonated a bomb inside the vehicle, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.
Police discovered a 25-minute video recording on a cellphone found with Conditt, which Manley said he considers a "confession" to the bombings, It described in great detail the differences among the bombs, he said.

"It is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his own life," Manley said of the recording.

Law enforcement officials did not immediately say whether Conditt acted alone in the five bombings in the Texas capital and suburban San Antonio that killed two people and badly wounded four others.
Investigators released few details about Conditt, except his age and that he was white. Neighbors say he was home schooled. He later attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012, according to a college spokeswoman, but he did not graduate.

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. He listed his interests as cycling, tennis and listening to music.
Of gay marriage, Conditt wrote: "Homosexuality is not natural. Just look at the male and female bodies. They are obviously designed to couple."

Jay Schulze, who lives in Pflugerville, said he was jogging Tuesday night when he was stopped by police and asked about the bombings. He said police flew drones over Conditt's home for about six hours between Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.

Schulze described the home as "a weird house with a lot of people coming and going" and a bit rundown.

A neighbour who watched Conditt grow up said he always seemed smart and polite. Jeff Reeb said he has lived next to Conditt's parents for about 17 years and described them as good neighbours. Conditt had visited his parents regularly, he said.

Conditt's family released a statement saying they had "no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in."

His uncle, Mike Courtney, said his nephew was a "computer geek" who was intelligent and kind.


UPDATE 6:45 a.m.

Law enforcement officials have identified Austin bombing suspect as Mark Anthony Conditt.

More to come...


UPDATE 6:20 a.m.

The suspect in the deadly string of bombings that terrorized Austin blew himself up early Wednesday as authorities closed in on him, bringing a grisly end to the three-week manhunt.

Authorities identified the suspect only as a 24-year-old white man and said his motive remained a mystery, along with whether he acted alone in the five bombings in Texas' capital and suburban San Antonio that killed two people and wounded four others.


ORIGINAL 5:09 a.m.

The suspect in a series of bombing attacks that terrorized Austin over the past few weeks blew himself up early Wednesday as law enforcement closed in on him. Authorities warned of concern that more explosives might still be out there.

Authorities had zeroed in on the suspect in the last 24 to 36 hours and located his vehicle at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the suburb of Round Rock, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference. They were waiting for ballistic vehicles to arrive to move in for an arrest when his vehicle began to drive away, Manley said. Authorities followed the vehicle, which ran into a ditch on the side of the road, the police chief said.

When members of the SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief said. The blast knocked back one officer, while a second officer fired his weapon, Manley said.

Authorities identified the suspect only as a 24-year-old white man and wouldn't say if he was from Austin.

Austin has been targeted by four package bombings since March 2 that killed two people and seriously wounded four others. A fifth parcel bomb detonated at a FedEx distribution centre near San Antonio early Tuesday.

Authorities on Wednesday 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," Manley said.

Manley said the suspect is believed to be responsible for all the major Austin bombings. Authorities also said they didn't know his motive.

Fred Milanowski, an agent with the U.S. 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 Milanowski, the agent in charge of the Houston division of the ATF. "We are not 100 per cent convinced there's not other devices out there."

Asked if the suspect built bombs before the Austin attacks, Milanowski said: "We know when he bought some of the components. It's hard to say whether he was building along the way."

Mayor Steve Adler thanked law enforcement for their work in bringing down the suspect and urged residents to continue to report anything that appeared suspicious or out of place.

"We're just really relieved and just incredibly thankful for this army of law enforcement that has been in our community here for the last week or so," he said on NBC's "Today" show. "We're asking people to remain vigilant and still identify things in the community that seem suspicious or out of place, as we have been doing."

Isaac Figueroa, 26, said he and his brother heard sirens and helicopters early Wednesday in the area and drove toward them, then cut through nearby woods on foot after they hit a police roadblock.

Figueroa said they saw a silver or grey Jeep Cherokee that was pinned between black and white vehicles and "looked like it had been rammed off the road." He said he saw police deploy a robot to go examine the Jeep.

President Donald Trump, who had earlier said whoever was responsible for the Austin bombings was "obviously a very sick individual or individuals," tweeted, "AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!"

The suspect's death followed a day of rapid-fire developments in the case.

On Tuesday, a bomb inside a package exploded around 1 a.m. as it passed along a conveyer belt at a FedEx shipping centre in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio and about 60 miles (95 kilometres) southwest of Austin. One worker reported ringing in her ears and was treated at the scene.

Later in the morning, police sent a bomb squad to a FedEx facility outside the Austin airport to check on a suspicious package. Federal agencies and police later said that package had indeed contained an explosive that was successfully intercepted and that it, too, was tied to the other bombings.

Authorities also closed off an Austin-area FedEx store where they believe the bomb that exploded in Schertz was shipped. They roped off a large area around the shopping centre in the enclave of Sunset Valley and were collecting evidence.



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