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Manhunt after 10 shot in Brooklyn subway attack

BROOKLYN (AFP) – A massive manhunt was underway on Tuesday in New York for a man who shot 10 people on a packed subway train, donning a gas mask before setting off two smoke bombs and opening fire on terrified commuters.

Police said the incident in Brooklyn was not being investigated as an act of terrorism, with no indication of a motive at this stage. None of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

New York Police Department commissioner Keechant Sewell told a press conference the suspected gunman put on a gas mask just as the train was arriving at the station.

The gunman “opened two canisters that dispensed smoke throughout the subway car,” Sewell said. “He then shot multiple passengers as the train pulled into the 36th Street station.”

In addition to the 10 gunshot victims, 13 others were injured as they tried to get out of the station or suffered smoke inhalation, according to officials. “We are truly fortunate this was not significantly worse than it is,” Sewell said.

NYPD chief James Essig said the gunman had fired 33 shots. Police later recovered a Glock 17 nine-millimetre handgun, three additional ammunition magazines and a hatchet from the scene.

Emergency personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in the Brooklyn borough of New York. PHOTO: AP

Sewell said they had identified a “person of interest” and described him as a “dark-skinned male” wearing a neon orange vest and a grey hooded sweatshirt.

They did not have anyone in custody, she added.

Police were alerted to the shooting just before 8.30am.

Verified video footage posted on social media showed the train pulling into the 36th Street station, and smoke billowing out the doors as passengers rushed off, some apparently injured.

One of them, Yav Montano, recounted on CNN being inside the car when it began filling with smoke – and shots rang out.

“In the moment, I did not think that it was a shooting because it sounded like fireworks,” he said. “It just sounded like a bunch of scattered popping.”

There were 40 to 50 passengers inside at the time and they began crowding towards the front, Montano said – but the door to the next car was locked.

“There were people in that other car that saw what was happening. And they tried to open the door, but they couldn’t,” he said. CNN aired a brief video shot by Montano inside the car showing passengers crowded together, some wearing masks and others pressing clothing against their mouths to protect against the smoke.

“There were some people whose clothes, whose pants were covered in blood,” Montano said, adding that he could not tell who was injured. “All I know is I saw, like, a lot of blood.”

Once the train finally reached the platform, the doors opened.

“People filed out, people forgot bags and shoes, and they just left everything to just get out of there as soon as possible,” Montano said.

Further footage showed passengers tending to bloodied victims lying on a smoky station platform, and subway staff shepherding panicked commuters, some still clutching their morning coffee cups.