Shattered Glass And Rattled Nerves Outside The Blast Site

March 7th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Shattered Glass And Rattled Nerves Outside The Blast Site

New York Times
March 7, 2008
Pg. B1
By Christine Hauser
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.”
Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Cara Buckley, Michael Cooper, David Johnston, Sharon Otterman and Stacey Stowe.