NEW YORK -- A bomb which police said packed the punch of 20 to 25 sticks of dynamite exploded in a TWA baggage terminal at LaGuardia Airport Monday night, killing 11 persons and injuring about 75 others.
Human limbs were scattered across the terminal area and a UPI reporter who was waiting for a flight said she saw a "human head -- just a head -- on a window ledge."
Police said the powerful bomb was placed in a coin-operated locker close to the area where passengers collect baggage.
The FBI said bomb threats were telephoned to at least seven airports across the nation after the New York blast, but no more bombs were found.
President Ford, on a skiing vacation in Vail, Colo., ordered a federal investigation of "this senseless act. I am deeply grieved at the loss of lives and injuries ..."
An anonymous male caller told UPI in New York the explosion was carried out by the Palestine Liberation Organization. But a spokesman for the PLO at the United Nations denied any connection with the blast and condemned "the dastardly act against the innocent people at LaGuardia."
The New York airport was closed today. Hundreds of flights during the busy holiday travel season were diverted to Kennedy and Newark airports. A Federal Aviation Administration official said that during normal hours a flight lands every two minutes at LaGuardia, and once a minute during rush hours.
"Usually a bomber picks a specific target for a specific reason," said one New York City police detective. "But this was just a senseless attack on innocent people."
A PLO spokesman in Beirut said the bomb appeared to be an attempt to embarrass the PLO prior to its participation in the U.N. Security Council Middle East debate beginning in two weeks. He said efforts to link the PLO to the bombing were an "effort to harm the struggle of our people ... at the international level, particularly at the United Nations and at the Security Council.
"It can hardly be coincidence that it occurred before the Security Council meeting on Jan. 12 to discuss the Palestine question."
New York City Police Chief Thomas Mitchelson said, "Two people were seen running from the scene shortly before the explosion." He declined to elaborate or to describe the two.
Police said nine of the dead -- five men and four women -- were killed instantly, one was declare dead on arrival at a hospital and another died in surgery.
In Washington, National Airport was closed for two hours Monday because of a bomb threat. Other bomb threats were telephoned to airports in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, the Baltimore-Washington International Airport at Glen Burnie, Md., and Norfolk, Va. The airports were searched but no more bombs were found.
The LaGuardia blast blew a 10-to-15-foot hole through the ceiling of the downstairs baggage area. The ceiling was made of six to eight inches of reinforce concrete and steel. People were killed and injured as far as 200 feet from the explosion.
Police said the bomb -- equivalent to 20 to 25 sticks of dynamite -- had been placed in a locker between two baggage carousels on the lower level of the terminal.
By midmorning today, only four of the dead had been identified. They were Edythe Bull, 72, of Brevard N.C., who had come to New York for a round-the-world trip with a friend; Ronald Presslaff, 32, a drug store manager from Long Beach, N.Y.; Frank Musicaro, 48, of Bayshore, N.Y.; and Bynum Patterson, 37, of Stamford, Conn.
Officials said several of the injured suffered severed limbs from flying slabs of jagged plate glass blown out of the windows of the modern steel-and-glass airport.
The Rev. Thomas Brady, Roman Catholic chaplain of the fire department, likened the scene to a June 24 Eastern Air Lines crash at Kennedy Airport that killed 113 persons.
"They're all badly battered," Brady said. "The place is a shambles,. It's just like the Kennedy crash -- limbs strewn everywhere."
H. Patrick Callaghan had just arrived from Indianapolis aboard a TWA flight for his first visit to New York and was waiting for a limousine to pick him up.
"If it had happened 15 minutes before, there would have been a full plane of people waiting for their luggage," he said while awaiting treatment for cuts. "Most of them (the people) had cleared out and there were just us waiting for the limousine."