Sunday, May 02, 2010

Car Bomb Disarmed in Times Square

"Playbill.com learned that the curtain of Mary Poppins went up on schedule on West 42nd Street, as did the curtain of La Cage aux Folles on West 48th Street. The Enron company on West 44th Street learned shortly before 8 PM that there was a nearby police action, so the curtain was delayed for a few minutes. At the end of the performance, around 10:30 PM, an announcement was made to the audience that they should exit west toward Eighth Avenue and not toward Times Square. One observer told Playbill.com, 'The police were not kidding around. They hustled people out.'"---(Playbill 5-2-10)

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a press conference [video] in Times Square at 2:15 A.M., Sunday morning. The Mayor announced that just after 6:28 P.M. Saturday, May 1, 2010, an alert T-shirt vendor, a Vietnam veteran, noticed a suspicious van near the Times Square Marriott Marquis, a popular hotel for tourists and theater-goers. Playbill (5-2-10) describes the Mayor's press conference. After the T-shirt vendor called mounted police officer Wayne Rhatigan, authorities cleared the area and disarmed a crude car bomb. The van began to smoke and catch on fire, but it did not explode. Some witnesses say they saw flames shoot out of the van.

The New York Post (5-1-10/Updated 5-2-10) reports that the van was parked on West 45th Street near Seventh Avenue, outside an entrance to the Minskoff Theatre, which is showing The Lion King.

T.V. commentators are suggesting that the bomber may have been inexperienced and may not have tested his design to make sure his bomb would detonate properly. According to WCBSTV (5-2-10), the car bomb reportedly included gasoline containers, propane tanks, fireworks, wires, two clocks, and a metal gun locker.

Mayor Bloomberg told the media: "[The bomb] was made up of consumer-grade fireworks that you can buy in pennsylvania and drive into New York. [See video of Bloomberg making this observation.] Fireworks are illegal in New York City, and Bloomberg's undercover police are known to stake out fireworks stores in Pennsylvania and arrest New Yorkers who bring fireworks home.

The May Day car bomb was parked only yards from the Armed Forces recruiting station in Times Square that was the target of an earlier anarchist attack.

According to updated information in The New York Times (5-2-10), a granular substance packed in a gun locker had the look and feel of fertilizer.

The New York Times (5-2-10) reports:

Police and federal agents on Sunday were reviewing surveillance footage that shows a possible suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing, describing him as a white man in his 40s who was walking away from the area where the vehicle was parked, looking furtively over his shoulder and removing a layer of clothing, officials said.

...The authorities said they are reviewing hundreds of hours of surveillance footage from the area, including images of the unidentified man captured by a tourist who was in Times Square on Saturday evening.

Investigative reporter Jeff Stein observes on his Washington Post blog "Spytalk":

“The fireworks seem very screwy,” Charles Faddis, who headed the CIA Counterterrorism Center’s weapons of mass destruction unit when he retired in 2008, said by e-mail.

“The only rational reason to use a firework of some kind would be as a fuse. If you have a simple mechanical fuse, why do you have clocks? Either you are confused-inexperienced-crazy, or you are just messing with people for some reason,” Faddis added.

“Sounds like homegrown stuff to me …” said another senior former CIA official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he still consults with the government on sensitive cases, “but if it is [al-Qaeda] related, they have lost significant capability if this is what they are reduced to.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN's "State of the Union" and and NBC's "Meet the Press" that authorities have already recovered lot of forensic evidence. I hope the authorities catch this cowardly, if thankfully inept, terrorist. What kind of sick, twisted psychopath parks a car bomb next to a Broadway Theater that is showing a children's musical?

The New York Times (5-1-10/obviously updated on 5-2) [See similar article dated 5-2-10] reports:

A crude car bomb of propane, gasoline and fireworks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers on a warm and busy night. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, there was no explosion, and early on Sunday the authorities were still seeking a suspect and motive.

“We are very lucky,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a 2:15 a.m. press conference. “We avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”

A large swath of Midtown — from 43rd Street to 48th Street, and from Sixth to Eighth Avenues — was closed for much of the evening after the Pathfinder was discovered just off Broadway on 45th Street. Several theaters and stores, as well as the South Tower of the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, were evacuated...

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. [See full text. See similar story dated 5-2-10]

According to the U.K. Telegraph (5-2-10), the New York City police are investigating if the target of the attempted bombing was the media conglomerate Viacom, which owns the irreverent cartoon series South Park:

Last month postings on an Islamic website warned the creators of South Park - Matt Stone and Trey Parker - that they could face violent reprisals after an episode of the show featured Muhammad in a bear suit.

A posting on the website of a US-based group called Revolution Muslim warned Stone and Parker that they would “probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh”, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim angered by his film about Muslim women.

Images of the Prophet are strictly forbidden in Islam, and Comedy Central, which broadcasts South Park, has banned Stone and Parker from depicting Muhammad in the past. In 2006 the network stopped them from featuring Muhammad in an episode which followed worldwide protests over a caricature of the Prophet by a Danish cartoonist.

Detectives are also understood to be investigating striking similarities between the New York bomb and two car bombs planted by Islamic terrorists outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London in 2007.

In both cases, the devices comprised cylinders of propane gas and cans full of petrol intended to be ignited by electronic detonators. [See full text.]

The U.K. Mail Online (5-2-10) and other media are also reporting that the Pakistani Taliban is claiming credit. The Mail article has some good photos.

See also the AP story at The Washington Post (5-2-10).

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