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Daily News: Leads in Averted Times Square Disaster Picking Up

May 2, 2010

The recent Times Square car bomb that was thankfully stopped before it could seriously injury anyone has been the lead story today, and some recent developments are being reported from the Daily News. We will update this story in the form of comments, and welcome you to share your thoughts on this scary event:

Police hunting the man who parked a crude but powerful car bomb in Times Square Saturday night are looking into a possible link to a South Park cartoon lampooning censorship about Mohammed.

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 Daily News.

The dark-colored Nissan SUV, its engine running and hazard lights flashing, was parked on W. 45th St. right next to the Broadway headquarters of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central.

The Pathfinder was packed with propane, gasoline and fireworks and a rudimentary fuse had already been ignited.

A vendor saved the day when he saw smoke curling from the car at about 6:30 p.m. and alerted Officer Wayne Rhatigan.

The materials were primitive, but if the SUV had blown, officials said the inferno would have eclipsed the blazing lights of the Crossroads of the World.

“I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

“We are very, very lucky,” said a police source.

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,” she told ABC.
“Nonetheless, we are alerting state and local law enforcement – everybody – to be on their toes.”

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 (D-NY).

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.

Last month, posted a graphic photo of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker murdered in 2004 for making documentary on violence against Muslim women.

It warned animators Trey Parker and Matt Stone – who had just shown Mohammed hidden in a bear suit – that “they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show.”

Whatever the motive, the plot to set Times Square ablaze was foiled by two sharp-eyed street vendors who spotted smoke curling from the car just after 6:30 p.m. and alerted cops.

The probe is in high gear, aided by clues that would have vanished in the fireball.

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 are looking for more videos.

“There are a ton of cameras all over Times Square,” SChumer said. “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.

Investigators were about to open it Sunday afternoon.

“This container may weigh as much as 200 pounds. This may have brought it to a whole new level,” a source said.

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 Daily News.

“I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second.”

He made his radio call at 6:33 p.m.

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.

All streets were reopened by 7:30 a.m. Sunday but the police presence was vast and traffic slow.

“We are very lucky,” Mayor Bloomberg said at press conference in the wee hours, still clad in the tuxedo and red bow tie he wore to the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington.

“Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”

A police source said the death toll on a warm and crowded Saturday evening “could have been enormous.”

President Obama was notified at 10:45 p.m. Saturday of the situation in Times Square and commended the “excellent work by the NYPD,” White House officials said.

For his part, 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.

Bloomberg plans to take Rhatigan to dinner at Blue Fin in Times Square tonight, to honor the officer and prove the area is safe.

  1. Cipriano....Terrorist In Training? permalink
    May 3, 2010 12:47 am

    Hmmm…wonder if little Petey’s campaign manager and PAC treasurer
    Mohammad Berkeshli is aware of this attempted bombing?

    Interesting connection……

  2. May 3, 2010 2:14 pm

    And our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have WHAT to do with making us safer at home? if some schmuck can park a car with bombs in it in the middle of Times Square, then a planned terrorist attack can sure as hell do more. Where was the Department of “Homeland SECURITY” to prevent this from happening? It took a bunch of street vendors to discover it, not some BS government bureaucrat.

    This just proves how unnecessary many government departments and branches are. what a waste of time and money. the average new yorker can do better a job than half these crooks in Washington.

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