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Emergency mobile alerts sound off in terrorism suspect search

New Yorkers are on the receiving end of a widespread push notification during a manhunt.

At 8 a.m. Monday local time, New Yorkers received a mass push notification informing them of a suspect wanted for questioning about terrorist bombings over the weekend.

Screenshot by Michael Sorrentino/CNET

Later in the morning, the suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was taken into custody. It's unclear whether the emergency mobile alerts played any role in Rahami's identification and arrest.

The bombings took place Saturday in New Jersey and in the Chelsea district of New York City. The Chelsea explosion left 29 people injured.

If you live in a flood plain or another area with weather alerts, you might be familiar with the alerts service, which wireless carriers adopted in 2012. Essentially, a loud buzzing sound and a push notification let users know that some sort of local emergency requires their attention. While the service has been used in recent years for weather and AMBER alerts, this seems to be the first time it has been used during a manhunt.

Some users were unnerved by the event, with many receiving loud notifications in unison during the morning commute. Whole train cars and coffee shops reportedly received notifications at once.

The alert went through to many in New York, but not all; it's possible to turn off the government alert feature in a phone's settings.

First published at 8:07 a.m. PT.
Update, 8:41 a.m. PT: Added that the suspect had been taken into custody.