Three injured in 'intentional' Nashville car bombing on Christmas morning
An early morning Christmas Day car bomb exploded in downtown Nashville on Friday, in what police believe was a deliberate attack.
A large blast was reported at 6.30am local time in a commercial district of the Tennessee capital, which had been packed with Christmas shoppers the day before.
Police were in the area, responding to a call of shots fired. They found no immediate signs of a shooting, but officers then noticed a suspicious vehicle and called for a bomb disposal unit. Before they arrived the car exploded.
It appeared from surveillance footage that officers were trying to evacuate the area before the explosion, playing a recorded message telling people to leave their homes.
The FBI was brought in to investigate.
Andrew McCabe, a former deputy FBI director, told CNN that an explosion of this size would be investigated as a possible act of terrorism. He said it was possible police were the target of the explosions given they were answering a 911 call when the car blew up.
Black smoke and flames were seen early Friday billowing from the area, which is home to bars, restaurants and other retail establishments and is known as the heart of downtown Nashville's tourist scene.
Most of the buildings were closed given the hour and Christmas holiday in the heart of the city, the capital of both the state of Tennessee and US country music.
Three people were transported to hospitals from the scene, but none are in critical condition, according to Joseph Pleasant, Nashville Fire spokesman.
Eyewitness Buck McCoy told CNN the explosion took place right in front of his home, causing his windows to be blown in.
"Everything on the street was fire," he said. "There were three cars that were fully engulfed."
A video he filmed immediately after the bombing showed the ceiling of nearby flats caved in as water poured in.
Residents could be heard screaming as they assessed the smouldering wreckage.
"All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible," Mr McCoy said.
"It felt like a bomb. It was that big," he told The Associated Press.
"There were about four cars on fire. I don't know if it was so hot they just caught on fire, and the trees were all blown apart," he said.
Trees were uprooted and at least two cars caught fire. Debris was also discovered a quarter of a mile away from the explosion, while people as far away as a mile reported feeling the blast.