02
May
10

Who’s Behind the Times Square Bomb Scare?

NEWS
Who’s Behind the Times Square Bomb Scare?
Explosive material removed from smoking car in NYC’s Times Square

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A smoking auto in the heart of New York City’s teeming Times Square Saturday evening tipped authorities to “an improvised car bomb,” officials announced early Sunday morning.

The area was immediately evacuated, with some Broadway shows canceled and streets blocked off. There was no explosion. The device was dismantled and there were no reports of injuries. Officials said the FBI is assisting the New York Police Department in the investigation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley, attending the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner in Washington, DC, rushed back to New York while the device was dismantled in the small hours of Sunday morning in a Times Square deserted except for police.

“We avoided what could have been a very deadly event,” Bloomberg, still dressed in his formal dinner clothes, told reporters on West 43rd Street across the street from the police Times Square substation. “There were gas cans and bomb making materials in the car.”

The car contained three propane tanks, two gas containers, “consumer grade fireworks,” clocks and crude wiring, the mayor said.

“This is a further reminder of the dangers we face,” he said, reminding residents of the target the city presents to terrorists.

“It certainly could have exploded and caused a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact,” Bloomberg said.

Kelly described a box resembling “gun locker” recovered from the auto and said it was being taken to the Police Department’s firing range in the city’s Bronx borough to be detonated.

The police “rendered safe an improvised car bomb” in the car found with “its engine running and lights flashing” just off Seventh Avenue, the police commissioner said.

Bloomberg said a T-shirt vendor, identified only as a Vietnam veteran, alerted Police Officer Wayne Rattigan mounted on his horse Megs who checked the car, smelled gunpowder and radioed for help.

The dark green Nissan Pathfinder sports utility vehicle (SUV) near the intersection of West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue, the heart of Times Square, was spotted emitting white smoke, around 6:30 p.m. EDT.

The Fire Department responded and spotted the propane tanks, a spokesman said.

Rattigan ordered that the immediate area be cleared and the area from 44th to 47th Streets along Seventh Avenue evacuated, a Police Department spokesman told. Nearby buildings were emptied and the streets cleared of people and vehicles.

The police bomb squad and Emergency Services units were called and when they confirmed the explosive material the cleared area was expanded from 43rd to 48th Streets and from Sixth to Eighth avenues, an enormous area encompassing virtually all of Times Square, in central Manhattan. Traffic in the area came to a near standstill at times.

The mayor said the license plate on the SUV did not match the car and the owner of the plates said they had been on a truck he had sent to a junk yard. Bloomberg said there was no reason to doubt his story but it was being checked out.

“Who abandoned the car and why are under investigation,” the mayor said.

The Pathfinder had no vehicle identification number, Kelly said. There were no immediate suspects nor was any group identified as possibly being behind the attempt.

Video surveillance cameras in the area were being checked and the vehicle was believed spotted being driven in the area but no pictures have emerged of any suspect or suspects exiting the vehicle, Bloomberg said, although it would take time to go through surveillance tapes from buildings which were closed over the weekend.

The mayor, who praised Rattigan, the mounted officer, the T-shirt vendor, the police and fire departments and other city agencies and New Yorkers in general for helping avert a disaster. He was flanked by New York State Governor David Paterson, and other city officials.

Officials said police were held over to check their facilities for suspicious devices and some reporters heard dispatchers on police radios instruct “all commands” to check the vicinity of police stations and vehicles for possible devices. They also were alerted to check suspicious vehicles for possible devices.

Asked by reporters what New Yorkers should do, Bloomberg advised them to go about their business as usual and to continue enjoying the balmy weather, but quickly added, “If you see something; say something,” as the T-shirt vendor did.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility in a video for the attempted car bomb attack in New York’s Times Square.
In the one minute, 11 second video allegedly released by the Pakistani Taliban, the group says the attack is revenge for the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and the recent slayings of the top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq – Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who were killed by U.S. and Iraqi troops last month north of Baghdad.

An unidentified speaker on the tape, uncovered by the U.S.-based SITE monitoring group, also says the attack comes in response to American ‘interference and terrorism in Muslim Countries, especially in Pakistan’.

The claim could not be immediately confirmed. The tape makes no specific reference to the attack; it does not mention that it was a car bomb or that it took place in New York City.

A text in gold letters on a black background at the start of the video congratulates Muslims for the ‘jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s U.S.A.’. As the speaker recites the message, images of the slain militants referred to flash across the screen. English subtitles are provided at the bottom of the screen.

The video was uncovered on Sunday by SITE, which monitors militant websites and has been accurate with such militant claims in the past.

The Pakistani Taliban is one of Pakistan’s largest and deadliest militant groups. It has strong links to al-Qaeda and is based in the northwest close to the Afghan border. The group has carried out scores of bloody attacks inside Pakistan in recent years, mostly against Pakistani targets, but it has made no secret of its hatred toward the United States.

If the claim of responsibility is genuine, it would be the first time the group has struck outside South Asia.

Last year, its then commander, Baitullah Mehsud, vowed to ‘amaze everyone in the world’ with an attack on Washington or even the White House. But Mehsud also reportedly said his men were behind a mass shooting in March 2009 at the American Civic Association in Binghamton in April 2009. That claim turned out to be false.

Police destroyed a microwave oven found near the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon, but officials say they now believe the small oven did not contain an explosive device.

Hours after a car bomb was discovered in New York’s Times Square, the oven was found on a sidewalk in front of a bus terminal near the site where about 5,000 people were going to complete the Sunday morning race.

The Pittsburgh Bomb Squad secured the area near the oven and then detonated it, removed it from the scene and reopened the area. There were no injuries.

• Source(s): Bloomberg L.P., Associated Press, Thomson Reuters and CNN
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