Vehicle explosion rocks Nashville on Christmas, police call it an 'intentional act'
By Rich McKay and Katanga Johnson
(Reuters) - A parked motor home exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning in what police called a "premeditated act" and firefighters reported rushing three people to the hospital, but none were seriously injured.
Police initially responded to an 911 call by "shooting" in the downtown tourist area at 6:00 a.m. (1200 GMT) when they reported seeing the vehicle, Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said without disclosing what it was made suspicious.
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"Circumstances about the vehicle prompted officers to call bomb squad," said Aaron. The bomb squad was on the way when the explosion occurred.
"We believe the explosion was a deliberate act," he said, describing the explosion as "significant", adding that police are working with federal agencies such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Andrew McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, said CNN police may have been the target of the explosions as they responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle when it exploded. He said an explosion of this size is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism both domestically and abroad.
Just before the explosion, police officers went door-to-door in nearby buildings to keep residents safe and waved to a man who was walking near the vehicle with his dog to change direction.
Police said it was not immediately clear if anyone was in the RV when it exploded.
The explosion, felt nine blocks away, knocked an officer off his feet and caused only temporary hearing loss, the spokesman said. Residents reported setting fire to a number of other vehicles.
Most of the buildings were closed for the hour and the Christmas break in the heart of the city, the capital of the state of Tennessee and American country music.
"There were trees everywhere, there was glass everywhere," Buck McCoy of Nashville told CNN.
The explosion destroyed several other vehicles and damaged several buildings, causing black smoke to fall in the sky that could be seen for miles.
"We are not aware of any further explosion attempts," said the spokesman.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper urged people to stay away from downtown as police and federal agencies investigated with the help of bomb dogs and surveillance cameras.
President Donald Trump has been informed of the explosion, a White House spokesman said.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Katanga Johnson in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller)
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