BARNEGAT — Authorities say the explosion of a garbage can on an Ocean County curb in a residential neighborhood was more likely a prank than anything else.

"Considering the time and the place of the explosion, we preliminarily believe it to be just an act of criminal mischief. It could be kids or someone just randomly throwing something in there.," Ocean County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave said of the incident, which occured at 1:30 a.m. Thursday in the Settlers Village neighborhood of Barnegat.

"It doesn't fit the MO of a terrorist attack, where you want to inflict the most casualties  and the most damage," Della Fave said.

The ATF is examining the debris to determine what kind of device it was and the materials used.

The explosion inside a trash can between two homes on 81 Village Drive and 82 Windward Drive caused no damage to any home or vehicle in its 10 yard debris field, Della Fave said. He said there is no animosity between the neighbors and neither one claimed ownership of the can.

Della Fave said another possibility is that it was a "reaction from combustibles left at the bottom of the can."

Many landscapers work in the neighborhood during the day and may have left materials behind after working without realizing what they had done, Della Fave said. He said many residents interviewed within a three-block radius said several landscapers had been working during the day and the can had twigs and sticks in it.

The explosion — though far less severe — is reminiscent of recent bombing attacks authorities say Elizabeth resident Ahmad Rahami conducted in New York and New Jersey last month.

He is accused of detonating a pipe bomb along the route of a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Park and a pressure cooker bomb in New York City. Explosives were also found in an Elizabeth trash can, and one detonated while authorities tried to disarm it. No one was killed in any of the incidents, though dozens were hurt in the New York explosion.

Rahami pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

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