Bloke on bike doesn’t like mass murder. Can you dig it?

Update : First with Faux News! “NEW YORK — Investigators believe the bicyclist who bombed the Times Square military recruiting station is a local man with ties to chaos-crazed anarchy groups, a high-ranking law-enforcement source said yesterday…”

Awesome.

Yeah so apparently the city that never sleeps got woken up by some bloke on a bicycle, who apparently threw some kind of explosive device at a military recruitment centre in Times Square. It went boom, and the centre’s window got broke.

A month earlier, a vehicle got stopped at the US-Canada border, and authorities suspect that the five ‘suspicious’ individuals involved in the crossing — five (or possibly four?) men, two French, one Italian and two Canadian — may have something to do with the boom-boom. As a result, Brian Ross and the investigative team at ABC-TV reckon:

Anarchist Buzz Concerns Intel Officials; Canadian Probe Continues, N.Y. Hunts for New Leads
U.S. and Canadian Authorities Meet to Go Over Evidence in the Times Square Bombing and a Vehicle Stop at the Canadian Border

They report “The pictures and other materials found in connection with the men stopped in Canada may not ultimately be directly linked to the bombing, but they represent part of what one senior official called “concentric, overlapping circles” of anti-war protest, what another called “part of a buzz on an anarchist uptick,” and what still a third confirmed as a growing concern to authorities”; you decide what it means. For some reason, it makes me think of film, and one film in particular.

    [At the big conclave/street gang meeting, Cyrus, the boss of the street gang appears]
    Cyrus: [yelling] Can you count, suckers? I say, the future is ours… if you can count!
    [A couple of soldiers cheer for Cyrus]
    Cyrus: Now, look what we have here before us. We got the Saracens sitting next to the Jones Street Boys. We’ve got the Moonrunners right by the Van Cortlandt Rangers. Nobody is wasting nobody. That… is a miracle. And miracles is the way things ought to be.
    [Few more soldiers cheering for Cyrus]
    Cyrus: You’re standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there’s over a hundred more. That’s 20,000 hardcore members. Forty-thousand, counting affiliates, and twenty-thousand more, not organized, but ready to fight: 60,000 soldiers! Now, there ain’t but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?
    Gang Members: Yeah.
    Cyrus: Can you dig it?
    Gang Members: Yeah!
    Cyrus: Can you dig it?
    Gang Members: YEAH!
    [Shouting and cheering]

See also : Report No. 2000/08: Anti-Globalization – A Spreading Phenomenon, CSIS, August 22, 2000

Shattered Glass and Rattled Nerves Outside the Blast Site
Christine Hauser
The New York Times
March 7, 2008

The attack took just a few minutes. Times Square was aglow in the morning darkness but nearly deserted as a shadowy figure on a bicycle pedaled in and planted a small bomb that shattered the glass facade of the military recruiting station on Broadway just north of 43rd Street.

The blast was heard in nearby buildings and roused tourists from their hotel beds, but caused little damage and no injuries. Still, the aftershock was felt all day. Streets and subway lines leading into and out of Times Square were closed for several hours. Two presidential candidates weighed in. Recruiting stations around the United States went on higher alert. The F.B.I joined the New York Police Department in a search for witnesses and surveillance video, and went back to the files to see if the bombing fit into a pattern of similar attacks, on the British and Mexican Consulates, in 2005 and 2007.

“Any time there is an explosion of a bomb we have to be concerned, regardless of where it is,” said the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. “Certainly Times Square is the crossroads of the world, and we are concerned about that.”

In Washington, the F.B.I and the Capitol police gathered letters delivered on Thursday to at least four congressional offices that contained a photograph of the Times Square recruiting station before it was bombed and a note saying: “We did it. Happy New Year.”

A law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the letters were more than 30 pages long, with serial numbers indicating that each was one of several hundred printed. The contents were described as ramblings about politics.

Each letter included a photograph of a person posing with outspread arms outside the recruiting station, law enforcement officials said. One official said the letter contained a return address from California.

The letters, sent through the mail, were received mainly by Democrats, apparently including some who have criticized the war in Iraq, law enforcement officials said. A man whose name was signed to the letters has acknowledged sending them, and officials said the comment “We did it” was probably a reference to a political victory. And late Thursday, officials said they increasingly believed there was no connection between the letters and the bombing.

Mr. Kelly said the authorities were trying to clarify video from a private security camera at 1501 Broadway, at 43rd Street, that showed a timeline of the explosion and would perhaps yield clues about the bomber. With Times Square one of the most photographed and videotaped areas in the city, the police were “methodically going through” possible sources of other surveillance, Mr. Kelly said.

At 3:37 a.m., according to the security video, the bicyclist, barely illuminated by the marquee lights and neon signs of Broadway, pedaled up to the station, between 43rd and 44th Streets, reaching the door at 3:38. A few cars and trucks rumbled by, pinpointed in the darkness by their red taillights.

At 3:39, the bicyclist rode off.

Then, signs of the blast. At 3:40:43 on the video’s time stamp — though the police said it was closer to 3:43 — a fat cloud of white smoke billowed out at the entrance of the station and then rose into a thick column before wafting away, partially obscuring the flashing neon signs.

A man walking by on his way to buy a newspaper on 42nd Street noticed a bicyclist outside the station acting suspiciously just before the explosion, Mr. Kelly said. He heard the explosion, as did a police officer at the small police substation opposite the recruiting office.

While the witness described the bicyclist as large, he did not see the person’s face, and the officer never saw the bicyclist at all, Mr. Kelly said.

The commissioner said that about four hours later, a 10-speed bicycle in good condition was found in or near trash receptacles at Madison Avenue and 38th Street, and investigators were checking to see if it was the same bike used in the bombing. A surveillance camera captured video of a man in the area where the bicycle was found, and technicians were working to enhance the images.

At some point before the explosion on Thursday, anarchist writings and photographs of various spots around New York City — including the military recruiting station and police station in Times Square — were discovered in one of several bags recovered by the authorities, an official said.

The contents “raised suspicions,” the official said, and detectives visited every location depicted in the photographs to “tell them to be on their toes.”

An official said Thursday night that the authorities were taking a new look at a recent incident at a Canadian border crossing in which two of four men in a car got out and fled. When the car was inspected at the checkpoint, bags were found that contained passports for four people. In one of the bags were those writings and photographs, the official said.

Streets and subway lines through Times Square were reopened around 6:30 a.m. to handle the thousands of cars and commuters arriving with the morning rush. Hours after the blast, the pavement in front of the recruiting center was splashed with glass shards, which also clung to the window frame, revealing a glimpse of a poster of Uncle Sam. The adjacent door was ajar, its frame twisted.

Bashir Saleh, 51, a coffee vendor who works on the corner of 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue each morning, said he arrived at his spot about 3:45 a.m. “I was getting ready to set up the cart, and then I heard a very loud explosion,” said Mr. Saleh. “Very, very loud. It was the first time I ever heard such a thing.”

“I saw a cloud of smoke, then I saw the police rushing towards it. In a matter of minutes there were 10 to 15 police cars. It was a scary experience.”

A woman visiting from Florida, Mercy Sepulveda, said she heard the blast from the 11th floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel, between 45th and 46th Streets. “I felt the building shaking,” she said. “And then a second after, I heard the explosion. It sounded like a gas tank exploding.”

The country’s 1,650 recruiting stations were ordered to assume a “higher level of awareness,” said Harvey Perritt, a spokesman for the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, in Fort Monroe, Va., though he would not give details about what measures were being taken, citing security concerns.

Campaigning in West Palm Beach, Fla., Senator John McCain said: “My friends, a bad thing happened in Times Square this morning, and that is some idiot tried to harm a recruiting station there in Times Square where we recruit men and women who serve in the military.” He added, “We have to track down and prosecute and put in jail people that commit acts of that nature.”

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, struck a similar note in Washington. “I’m grateful that there were no injuries and minimal damage done,” she said, adding, that “it is imperative to remain vigilant as we continue to face threats at home and abroad.”

In Times Square Blast, Echoes of Earlier Bombings
Al Baker
The New York Times
March 7, 2008

The British Consulate in 2005. The Mexican Consulate last year. And on Thursday, the Times Square military recruiting station.

Three bombings with similar devices at three high-profile locations in Manhattan, each occurring at nearly the same time of day, in the predawn hours; each inflicting little damage; none injuring people.

And in each case, someone — most likely a man — seen pedaling away on a bicycle with a hooded jacket or sweatshirt hiding his face.

These are the similarities that police detectives and federal agents are exploring as they investigate whether these blasts, so seemingly similar, were the work of the same person or group, and what the motive was.

Law enforcement officials stopped short on Thursday of definitively linking the explosions — or of trying to divine the significance of the latest, most visible target: the island at the center of the pinball-game brightness of Times Square.

“The fact of the matter is that all three incidents happened within a 30-minute span, a 25-minute span,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at a news conference at 1 Police Plaza, where he played a video surveillance tape that showed the blast occurring at 3:40:43, although he said police believed it was closer to 3:43. The May 5, 2005 bombing at the British Consulate occurred at 3:55 a.m.; the bombing last year at the Mexican Consulate was at 3:40 a.m. on Oct. 26.

The device used on Thursday was “roughly similar” to those in the two earlier bombings, Mr. Kelly said. No one has directly claimed responsibility for the explosions, another similarity.

Late Thursday, investigators analyzed letters received by members of Congress with pictures taken before the blast of someone in front of the recruiting station with the words “We did it. Happy New Year.” As the night wore on, investigators increasingly believed the letters had no connection to the bombing, but were probably a strange coincidence, one official said.

The bombings in 2005 and last year involved two devices each, each packed with black gunpowder. One was modeled after the “lemon” type of grenade used in the Vietnam War, the other was scored like the rough “pineapple” grenade used during World War II. This time, the explosives were packed in a metal ammunition box, the kind that can be bought at a military surplus store. The authorities have yet to determine whether the explosive was black gunpowder.

“I read an intelligence briefing this morning that there is a pattern of similarity in the modus operandi, specifically the delivery of the improvised explosive devices to the target,” said Kevin B. Barry, who retired in 2002 as a detective in the New York Police Department’s Bomb Squad and is now an official with the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.

“The question now is: Are the forensics similar in nature? Are they able to link the three together in any way?” he said. “And, will they declare it a serial bomber if they link the three I.E.D. components forensically?”

The Times Square blast drew the attention of the national news media, the involvement of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comments from presidential candidates. Experts tried to glean motives from the similarities.

“What you have here is a very frustrated individual, someone who is trying to send a message, but it is a very confused message,” said Ray Pierce, a retired New York City detective who now works as a criminal profiler.

The use of a bicycle, the early-morning hours of the attacks and the improvised nature of the devices, as well as the low-grade or low-velocity explosive, suggest the perpetrator might be a young person who is more focused on sending a message than hurting anyone, Mr. Pierce added.

The bombing at the British Consulate, at 845 Third Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, occurred on an election day in Britain. The one outside the Mexican Consulate, at 27 East 39th Street near Madison Avenue, came on the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of Bradley Roland Will, 36, a journalist from New York who often traveled to Latin America to chronicle little-known disputes.

And the explosion on Thursday occurred on the 38th anniversary of the day when three members of the revolutionary group Weather Underground accidentally blew themselves up in their town house in Greenwich Village while making bombs. The significance of these dates, if any, is unknown.

People move in ways they are comfortable with, even when carrying out violence, analysts said. Police officers, for example, often use guns to commit suicide, because that is familiar.

“He feels comfortable on the bicycle,” Mr. Pierce said of the bomber, suggesting the person could be a bike messenger.

Several analysts said that the forensics of an explosive device can tell investigators much about what they are dealing with. Bombers tend to have signatures.

Mr. Barry described the components of a bomb that investigators “will be looking for.” He said they are: a power source, such as an AA battery or a fuse; an initiator, like the fuse itself or a cellphone or a timing device; an explosive; and a switch.

Another prime piece of forensic evidence would be the ammunition box fashioned into the bomb and any remnants of it.

In this case it was a metal box used for banded machine gun bullets, the authorities said. Mr. Barry said such a device would easily fall apart.

“They will pick up every scrap they can find,” Mr. Barry said. “They might be able to get powder, they might be able to get a fingerprint and they might be able to get DNA, from sweat, for instance, and they might be able to make a match with any of those other two devices.”

Mark J. Mershon, the assistant F.B.I. director who heads the bureau’s New York office, said the physical evidence would be taken to the agency’s laboratory in Quantico, Va., for analysis, where evidence from the bombings in 2005 and 2007 were also sent.

Reporting was contributed by Christine Hauser, Colin Moynihan, William K. Rashbaum and Carolyn Wilder.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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