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An emergency system intended to alert people, via cellphone, about weather advisories or abducted children was used for the first time in New York City to aid in the manhunt for a criminal suspect.

The “electronic wanted poster,” as The New York Times called it Monday, sought the public’s help in tracking down Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old suspect in bombings that took place in Manhattan and New Jersey.

The message from the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alerts system, is targeted to a cellphone’s location and was probably received by millions of people nearly at once, the Times said. It read: “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

Rahami, suspected in a bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood that injured 29 people on Saturday, was taken into custody Monday after a gunfight with police in Linden, N.J.

The alert system is generally used for three types of alerts: to warn people about storms and other threats to public safety; to broadcast Amber Alerts for abducted children; and for messages from the president.

A spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told the Times that Monday’s alert was “a first” for such a purpose.

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