Sunday, May 02, 2010

Times Square Bomb Investigation Gets Underway

While reports indicate that the bomb that was discovered in a Nissan Pathfinder was
"amateurish" in design, the reports also say that it was a massive bomb that could have done significant damage had an alert street vendor not called police over to investigate further.
At 6:28 p.m., Mr. Kelly said, a video surveillance camera recorded what was believed to be the dark green Nissan S.U.V. driving west on 45th Street.

Moments later, a T-shirt vendor on the sidewalk saw smoke coming out of vents near the back seat of the S.U.V., which was now parked awkwardly at the curb with its engine running and its hazard lights on. The vendor called to a mounted police officer, the mayor said, who smelled gunpowder when he approached the S.U.V. and called for assistance. The police began evacuating Times Square, starting with businesses along Seventh Avenue, including a Foot Locker store and a McDonald’s.Police officers from the emergency service unit and firefighters flooded the area and were troubled by the hazard lights and running engine, and by the fact that the S.U.V. was oddly angled in the street. At this point, a firefighter from Ladder 4 reported hearing several “pops” from within the vehicle. The police also learned that the Pathfinder had the wrong license plates on it.

Members of the Police Department’s bomb squad donned protective gear, broke the Pathfinder’s back windows and sent in a “robotic device” to “observe” it, said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the police department’s chief spokesman.

Inside, they discovered three canisters of propane like those used for barbecue grills, two five-gallon cans of gasoline, consumer-grade fireworks — the apparent source of the “pops” — and two clocks with batteries, the mayor said. He said the device “looked amateurish.”

Mr. Browne said: “It appeared it was in the process of detonating, but it malfunctioned.”

Bomb squad officers also discovered a two-by-two-by-four-foot metal box — described as a “gun locker” — in the S.U.V. that was taken to the Police Department’s firing range at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx to be destroyed, Mr. Kelly said. It was not immediately known what, if anything, was inside it.

Officials said they had no reports of anyone seen running from the vehicle. Mr. Kelly said police were scouring the area for any additional videotapes but noted that the S.U.V.’s windows were tinted, which could further hamper any efforts to identify those inside. Some of the surveillance cameras nearby were located in closed businesses, and the mayor made clear it would take time to review all available tapes.

“We have no idea who did this or why,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
The Pathfinder was driven into Times Square and apparently abandoned. The driver's whereabouts are unknown, as is his motive. The vehicle's license plates were stolen and the VIN number was filed off.

New York City dodged a bullet given that this bomb had the potential to do significant damage. Times Square was exceedingly busy last night with the unseasonably warm temperatures bringing people out to enjoy the weather, plus the usual large crowds going to the theaters, restaurants, and sights in Times Square. The vehicle's location was outside the Marriott Marquis, and that large hotel (1,949 rooms, plus convention space, restaurants, and theaters) was affected by closures, as were other restaurants and theaters in the area. Street cordons blocked off much of Times Square to all traffic, but has since reopened this morning.

Without having a person in custody, there is no word on motive, or whether there was a specific target in mind. Right now, all the talking heads can do is speculate on who, what, and why.

Times Square has witnessed several incidents in recent years, including a pipe bomb that hit the Armed Forces Recruiting station, and an abandoned vehicle that was deemed suspicious last December that was ultimately found to be not a threat.

It will take reviews of video from the area - many of the buildings and law enforcement have videos of Times Square - to see if the vehicle's driver can be identified. Investigators are also tracking back the ownership of the Pathfinder to see if there's anything that can shed light on last night's failed bombing.

Lots of updates. There's a person of interest who appears to be a white male in his 40s. Pakistani Taliban group claims responsibility for the attack as revenge for the elimination of two al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The U.S.-based SITE intelligence group, which monitors militant websites, said the Pakistani Taliban claims the attack is revenge for the death of its leader Baitullah Mehsud and the recent killings of the top leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq. Images of the slain militants are shown as an unidentified voice recites the message. English subtitles are at the bottom of the screen.

New York authorities were combing through the SUV at a forensic lab for fingerprints and DNA evidence and had isolated a 200-pound gun locker at a police firing rang in the Bronx, trying to determine whether it could contain more power explosives that could have detonated the explosive device.
Police say that they have no links just yet. Rep. Peter King posited that this could have been an attack done as revenge for Comedy Central allowing South Park to go forward with its depiction of Mohammed.

The US authorities are considering this to be a potential terror attack and the NYPD and other law enforcement are investigating, using all the means at their disposal.

The feds are treating this as a potential terror attack; it clearly wasn't an accident. It was a failed terror attack, and the failure means that obtaining forensics will be easier.

There is also word that someone called in to 911 the possibility that this incident was a diversion:
On Sunday, police and F.B.I. officials were also investigating a 911 call placed at around 4 .a.m. on Sunday, several officials said. The caller, who one official said sounded intelligent, admonished the 911 dispatcher not to interrupt him until he was finished and then said there would be a massive explosion soon and the car in Times Square was only a diversion.

The call came from a payphone at West 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, which detectives have since dusted for fingerprints, the officials said.

It remained unclear what link, if any, existed between the caller and the failed car bomb from hours earlier, the officials said.
The tape of Taliban thugs claiming credit for failed TS bombing appears legitimate. Well, they can claim credit but doesn't mean that they did it - they could be claiming credit for a lone wackaloon or jihadi lone wolf, or they could have been behind it - in which case, that means that there may be coconspirators involved domestically and abroad.

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