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Bombing shakes nerves in New York

A bomb in Times Square doesn't injure anyone, but has city on edge.

Associated Press
Published March 7, 2008


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NEW YORK - For the third time in as many years, someone riding a bike and armed with a small explosive struck in Manhattan, this time in the highest-profile location by far: a landmark military recruitment station in the heart of Times Square.

The bomb, contained in a metal ammunition box, produced a sudden flash and billowing cloud of white smoke about 3:40 a.m. Thursday, a scene captured by numerous security videocameras. When the smoke cleared, there were no injuries, serious damage or clear indication of motive.

But like similar attacks on the British and Mexican consulates, the explosion frayed nerves of New Yorkers and tourists alike. Although authorities have not definitively linked the three attacks, the latest episode heightened speculation that they were the work of a lone bomber who, perhaps emboldened by his past success, sought out the bright lights of Times Square.

" Times Square is the crossroads of the world and we're concerned about it," police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The New York Police Department released a video of the shadowy figure on a bicycle.

A law enforcement official said police are investigating letters sent to Capitol Hill offices showing pictures of the recruiting station and including the claim "We Did It." The manila envelopes contained a photo of a man standing in front of the recruiting station, according to a Democratic aide who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the matter is under investigation. The man was thin, white with graying hair, wearing a striped flannel shirt and jeans, according to the aide.

The envelopes also contained a booklet and a packet of about 10 sheets of paper that seemed to be a political manifesto railing against the Iraq war.

The blast prompted a huge police response, left a gaping hole in the front window and shattered a glass door, twisting and blackening the metal frame of the building. Guests at the nearby Marriott Marquis said they heard a big bang and felt the building shake.

The private security video, though too murky for police to get a clear description of the cyclist, shows a figure riding along a traffic island in the glow of neon signs at 3:38 a.m. and getting off the bike just outside the recruitment center. About two minutes later, the cyclist rides away. Then the explosion occurs.

Investigators were studying other security videos, including one showing a man exiting a subway station about 10 blocks away carrying a bicycle, police said. The commissioner cited other possible clues: A new bike discovered about 7 a.m. in a trash bin a few blocks from the blast, and a sighting of a man on a bike near the scene just before the explosion.

The blast bears a striking resemblance to the two consulate explosions.

In October, two small explosive devices were tossed over a fence at the Mexican Consulate, shattering some windows; police said they believed someone on a bicycle threw the devices. At the time, police said they were investigating whether it was connected to a nearly identical incident May 5, 2005, at the British Consulate. No one was arrested in either incident.

Eerie similarities

The blast was strikingly similar to two other New York attacks, one in October at the Mexican Consulate and one in May 2005 at the British Consulate.

-A hooded man riding a bike is a suspect in all three attacks.

-All of the incidents occurred between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m.

-All involved homemade explosives.

-The attacks occurred on dates of significance to leftist activists. The British Consulate was bombed the day Prime Minister Tony Blair was re-elected. The Mexican Consulate was hit on the one-year anniversary of the death of activist Brad Will, killed while filming in Mexico. March 6 is the anniversary of a deadly explosion in a Greenwich Village townhouse in 1970, set off accidently by members of the radical organization the Weathermen.

Newsday

[Last modified March 7, 2008, 01:36:59]


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