New York, Sep 20: In a first, authorities in the US used a cellphone alert to ask millions of New Yorkers to help nab a 28-year-old naturalised American citizen of Afghan descent wanted for the weekend bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.
The nation's Wireless Emergency Alerts system was deployed, believed for the first time ever to issue an alert relating to a terror investigation, very different from the usual weather or abducted children advisory.
Cellphones blared with the cacophonous tone of an emergency alert yesterday at around 8 AM and its content caught New Yorkers by surprise.
The alert, received by millions on their phones nearly at the same time, was an electronic "wanted poster" which read "WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen".
The electronic wanted alert meant the citizens in homes, subways, sidewalks and offices across New York were now part of a massive drive to nab the person wanted for placing bombs, including a pressure cooker that did not detonate, on the busy and crowded streets of Manhattan on a Saturday evening.
Rahami was captured just hours after the alert went out, taken into custody following a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey.
Alerts are usually sent across phone networks warning city residents about extreme weather conditions such as tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons, the 'AMBER Alerts' asking for public help in most serious child-abduction cases and alerts by the President during a national emergency.