The Pakistani Taliban says the failed Times Square car bomb was the work of its operatives, but officials investigating the incident are dubious, according to the Daily News report.
The terrorist group has a history of claiming credit for incidents it had nothing to do with, and initial investigation results suggest “this was not part of any plot by al Qaeda or another known terrorist organization.”
Now NYC police hunting the man who parked a van with a potentially powerful and dangerous bomb in Times Square Saturday night.
However, no link has been established, but threats against the Comedy Central animators were made by a New York Islamist Web site last month and police are aggressively looking for connections, sources told the NY Daily News.
The dark-colored Nissan SUV with running engine and hazard flashing lights, was parked on W. 45th St. right next to the Broadway headquarters of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central. The car was packed with propane, gasoline and fireworks and a rudimentary fuse had already been ignited.
A T-shirt vendor saved NYC when he saw smoke curling from the car at about 6:30 p.m. and alerted Officer Wayne Rhatigan. The bomb was primitive, but if the SUV had blown, officials said the inferno would have eclipsed the blazing lights of the Crossroads of the World.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said: “I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire. And we are very, very lucky.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the feds were taking it very seriously, treating it as “a potential terrorist attack.”
“Right now, we have no information other than it is a one-off,” said Janet Napolitano to ABC News. “Nonetheless, we are alerting state and local law enforcement – everybody – to be on their toes.”
A Taliban official in Pakistan took credit in an audio tape posted to YouTube, but officials were hesitant to link the failed attack to international terrorist groups, calling it more likely a “one-off” or “lone wolf.”
Preliminary signs suggest “that this was not part of any plot by al Qaeda or another known terrorist organization,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. He said the feds picked up no overseas “chatter” before Saturday night’s attempted attack.
CBS reported that Pakistani intelligence officials were discounting the Taliban claim, saying the group does not have the global reach of al Qaeda. The same group claimed credit for last year’s Binghamton massacre of 13 people carried out by laid-off Vietnamese immigrant Jiverly Wong, who had no ties to militant Islam.
The van’s vehicle identification number was defaced, but detectives have been been able to decipher some characters, police sources said. They also have lifted some fingerprints from the vehicle and traced its stolen Connecticut license plate to a junkyard called Kramer’s Used Auto Parts in Stratford, Conn.
Surveillance videos reviewed so far caught the car heading west from 6th Avenue on 45th St. at 6:29 p.m., but missed the driver exiting. Police now are looking for more videos.
“There are a ton of cameras all over Times Square,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer. “There’s a decent chance that the perpetrator will be caught on camera one way or another.”
Inside the Nissan, the makeshift bomb was cobbled together of three 20-lb propane tanks, two 5-gallon jugs of gasoline and gunpowder from ordinary firecrackers. A small white, old-fashioned analog alarm clock was found attached to a mysterious long locked metal box with wires coming out.
The heavy metal box, resembling a rifle locker, was retrieved by a robot that smashed its way into the back window of the SUV, and was taken to a bomb disposal facility.
When the vendors saw smoke and alerted mounted police Officer Wayne Rhatigan, he sprang into action. “I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking,” Rhatigan told the newspaper. “I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second.”
Rhatigan and two rookie female cops patrolling the area began pushing thousands of people away from the scene and calling for backup, he said. The Fire Department and bomb squad rushed to the scene.
Times Square area from 43rd to 47th, between 6th and 8th avenues was shut down and cops corralled tourists and gawkers behind barriers and nets. The south tower of the Marriott Marquis hotel was also evacuated.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “We avoided what could have been a very deadly event. It certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact.” Bloomberg said that the bomb was “amateurish” but potentially deadly. “We are very lucky,” he added.
Wayne Rhatigan, 46, said he still plans to retire this year after 19 years of service to the NYPD. “Of all the idiots in New York, I find this thing,” he said. “I was almost a fireball.”