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A reward of more than a quarter of a million dollars has been offered to anyone who helps find the person behind the mysterious Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, Tennessee.
Local businessmen and celebrities made the offer after three people were injured and at least 41 buildings damaged when an RV exploded in the city’s downtown around 6.40am on Friday.
Marcus Lemonis, a businessman and TV host, offered $250,000 “to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction”, adding: “We can't have our streets terrorised like this.”
Others who then added to the cash pot include a local tourism body, Fox Sports host Clay Travis and a shop located near the explosion. The motive for the attack remains unclear.
Federal agents investigating the explosion were searching a suburban house in Nashville on Saturday. Officials were also trying to identify apparent human remains found near the exploded vehicle.
According to CNN, investigators believe that the blast may have been the result of a suicide bombing.
The RV sent out a recorded message urging the area to be evacuated and saying it would explode in 15 minutes.
The explosion also appeared to be timed for early in the morning, when few people will have been present. Both were seen as potential signs that the perpetrator wanted to limit casualties.
However the bomb was also placed in a major city centre and created a big enough blast to damage buildings and spray debris for blocks around; a potentially deadly act.
US law enforcement figures said in a press briefing on Saturday that they were looking into 500 different leads and tips over the bombing.
No indication was given as to whether one individual or multiple people were believed to be behind the blast, though officers stressed there was no ongoing danger.
Don Cochran, US attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, likened the bomber to the “ultimate Scrooge”, bringing destruction instead of joy on Christmas Day.
Bomb experts were scouring the scene on Saturday for evidence, working from the outside perimeter of the blast zone, while behavioural experts were trying to work out a motive.
Bill Ryan, a former New York Police Department detective, speculated on Fox News that the recorded message could have been a way to attract law enforcement before the explosion.
Police chiefs said at a press conference on Friday night that they were examining what appeared to be human tissue found at the site to see if it was the remains of a body.
CBS News reported on Saturday that police had identified “a person of interest or persons of interest” connected to the bombing.
The RV had been parked next to an AT&T central office, with the blast downing telephone lines including Nashville’s Covid-19 community hotline.
Six police officers who scrambled to evacuate buildings as the recorded warning played out before the blast were praised as heroes who had saved countless lives.
John Drake, chief of the Nashville Police Department, said on Friday: “These officers didn’t care about themselves, they didn’t think about that. They cared about the citizens of Nashville.”
“The officers saved lives today and their heroism should be noted.”
Local police and agents from the FBI and US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were searching a two-storey red-brick house on Bakertown Road in Antioch, Tennessee, 11 miles (18km) southeast of Nashville, paying particular attention to its basement, according to a Reuters witness.
Officials on Saturday declined to name a person of interest in connection with the explosion, but CBS News reported that the investigation had honed in on a man in his 60s who recently lived at the Bakertown address, public records showed.
According to a document posted online, on November 25 he signed over the property to a woman in Los Angeles at no cost to her. The document was signed by the man, but not by the woman, Reuters reported.
"Google Street View images of the house from 2019 show what appears to be a white motor home in the driveway," Reuters reported.
"Neighbours told local TV station WKRN that the recreational vehicle had been parked there for years and is now gone."
FBI Special Agent in Charge Doug Korneski said: "At this point we're not prepared to identify any single individual."