BOSTON (AP) - Federal agents zeroed in Tuesday on how the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out - with kitchen pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails and other lethal shrapnel - but said they still didn't know who did it and why.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies repeatedly pleaded for members of the public to come forward with photos, videos or anything suspicious they might have seen or heard.
"The range of suspects and motives remains wide open," Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston, said at a news conference. He vowed to "go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime."
President Barack Obama branded the attack an act of terrorism but said officials don't know "whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual."
Scores of victims of the Boston bombing remained in hospitals, many with grievous injuries, a day after the twin explosions near the marathon's finish line killed three people, wounded more than 170 and reawakened fears of terrorism. A 9-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy were among 17 victims listed in critical condition.
Officials found that the bombs in Boston consisted of explosives put in ordinary, 1.6-gallon pressure cookers, one with shards of metal and ball bearings, the other with nails, according to a person close to the investigation.
Both bombs were stuffed into black duffel bags and left on the ground, the person said.
DesLauriers confirmed investigators had found pieces of black nylon from a bag or backpack and fragments of BBs and nails, possibly contained in a pressure cooker. He said the items were sent to the FBI laboratory at Quantico, Va., for analysis.
Investigators said they have not yet determined what was used to set off the explosives.
Pressure-cooker explosives have been used in international terrorism, and have been recommended for lone-wolf operatives by Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen.
But information on how to make the bombs is readily found online, and U.S. officials said Americans should not rush to judgment in linking the attack to overseas terrorists.
DesLauriers said there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack.
He urged people to come forward with anything suspicious, such as hearing someone express an interest in explosives or a desire to attack the marathon, seeing someone carrying a dark heavy bag at the race, or hearing mysterious explosions recently.
"Someone knows who did this," the FBI agent said.
The bombs exploded 10 or more seconds apart, tearing off victims' limbs and spattering streets with blood, instantly turning the festive race into a hellish scene of confusion, horror and heroics.
The blasts killed 8-year-old Martin Richard of Boston, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell of Medford, Mass., and a third victim, identified only as a Chinese graduate student at Boston University.
Obama plans to visit Boston on Thursday to attend an interfaith service in honor of the victims. He has traveled four times to cities reeling from mass violence, most recently in December after the schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Conn.
In the wake of the attack, security was stepped up around the White House and across the country. Police massed at federal buildings and transit centers in the nation's capital, critical response teams deployed in New York City, and security officers with bomb-sniffing dogs spread through Chicago's Union Station.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the stepped-up security was a precaution and there was no evidence the bombings were part of a wider plot.
Pressure-cooker explosives have been used in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, according to a July 2010 intelligence report by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department. One of the three devices used in the May 2010 Times Square attempted bombing was a pressure cooker, the report said.
"Placed carefully, such devices provide little or no indication of an impending attack," the report said.
The Pakistani Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the 2010 attempt in Times Square, has denied any part in the Boston Marathon attack.
Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen gave a detailed description of how to make a bomb using a pressure cooker in a 2010 issue of Inspire, its English-language online publication aimed at would-be terrorists acting alone.
In a chapter titled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom," it says "the pressurized cooker is the most effective method" for making a simple bomb, and it provides directions.
Investigators in the Boston bombing are also combing surveillance tapes from businesses around the finish line and asking travelers at Logan Airport to share any photos or video that might help.
"This is probably one of the most photographed areas in the country yesterday," said Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis. He said two security sweeps of the marathon route had been conducted before the bombing.
Boston police and firefighter unions announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to arrests.