The FBI released a surveillance image on Wednesday of two men it says appeared to remove a bomb from a suitcase in New York City on Saturday night and take the luggage, leaving the device behind.
The FBI and the New York City Police Department are looking to speak with the men as witnesses and are hoping to recover the luggage as evidence in their investigation into the bombings in New York and New Jersey over the weekend.
A bombing on West 23rd Street in Manhattan on Saturday night left 29 people injured. The bomb the FBI believes the two men in the surveillance image left behind was recovered by the police just blocks away, on West 27th Street.
The surveillance image was taken on West 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. in Manhattan, not far from the spot where the unexploded device was discovered.
“Closed circuit television recordings indicate that these individuals allegedly located a piece of luggage on the sidewalk, removed an improvised explosive device from the luggage, and then left the vicinity leaving the device behind but taking the luggage,” an FBI notice accompanying the image said.
At a news conference on Wednesday, James Waters, the NYPD counterterrorism bureau chief, speculated that the two men’s handling of the device may have inadvertently deactivated it, calling them “very, very lucky.”
NYPD officials said recovering the missing suitcase – described as an “airplane tote” with a retractable handle – and speaking with the two men was crucial to the investigation.
Waters described the suitcase as a “rich environment” from which to pull evidence, noting that investigators could find numerous leads by analyzing the bag or finding out who purchased it.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the two men were being treated as “witnesses” and that, should they talk to the police, they need not worry about any charges related to the missing bag.
“We’re very much interested in speaking to them … There are no criminal charges,” Waters said. “They are not in jeopardy of being arrested.”
The suspect in the bombings, 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami, was taken into custody on Monday after a shootout with the police in Linden, New Jersey. He has been charged with planting both the bombs in New York and others in New Jersey, one of which exploded shortly before the start of a charity race on Saturday morning.
Here’s the full notice from the FBI: