Suspect in Boston police car propane attack arrested

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[January 23, 2017]    (Reuters) - A man suspected of leaving a burning propane tank next to a Boston squad car last week was taken into custody after an investigation into the incident, police said on Sunday.

Boston Police gather at the scene after a burning propane tank was left near an unoccupied police cruiser in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Josh Reynolds

Asim Kieta, 42, was arrested late on Saturday in the city's Charlestown section and charged with possession of an explosive device, arson and assault with intent to murder, among other counts.

Kieta, a Boston native, is homeless and has an extensive police record, Police Commissioner William Evans told a briefing on Sunday. He characterized the act as "deliberate" but said investigators were still uncertain of a motive.

Police were on high alert nationwide on Friday as Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president. Hundreds of protesters were arrested in Washington as sporadic violence broke out in the capital during the inauguration festivities.

"I think it goes to some of the hatred out there, whether it is because of what has happened across the country, or whether this was personal with him, because he has had some encounters with police," Evans said. "I don't know whether it was payback or not."

Members of the Boston police bomb squad responded on Friday to a report that a parked police cruiser in South Boston had been damaged by an incendiary device, described by a spokeswoman as a propane tank.

When they arrived, officers found the damaged car with evidence of an explosive device underneath it, the Boston Police Department said in a statement on Sunday. The vehicle had been unoccupied.

The squad car sustained minor damage and two police officers were treated for minor injuries in the incident, it said.

The suspect will appear in South Boston District Court, the statement said, without specifying a date.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Paul Simao and Peter Cooney)

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