Terrorism attempt in Times Square

There is much yet to be determined about the truck bomb that failed to explode in Times Square Saturday night.

But the near miss — like the attempt to explode an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day — is a potent reminder that violent forces remain intent on killing and maiming innocent people in this country, and wreaking havoc on some of the most iconic places in the United States.

Authorities have not yet determined whether the attempted bombing was the coordinated work of an extremist group or an individual, whether it involved domestic terrorists or groups from outside the country, such as Islamist fanatics.

There are some clues pointing toward the last alternative. For one thing, in a video posted on YouTube, the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for the attempted attack. Additionally, the complicated explosive device — which included firecrackers, canisters of propane and gasoline and fertilizer in a metal gun locker — was similar in some respects to unexploded bombs planted by Islamist terrorists in Great Britain in 2007.

As with the Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing, Saturday’s attack was thwarted by a combination of ineffective explosive technology and alert bystanders.

In the Times Square case, New York police authorities said the fuses set to ignite the firecrackers sputtered and, at best, only partially detonated some of them.

The burning fuses, however, did set parts of the interior of the Nissan Pathfinder smoldering, causing smoke that two nearby street vendors noticed. They alerted a mounted policeman, who quickly contacted other police officials and the area was cleared so the bomb could be defused.

Good thing, too. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said if the fire had gotten hot enough to detonate the propane and gasoline canisters, it would have created a fireball that would have killed or injured many Times Square tourists.

Saturday’s attempted attack is a reminder of the need for local, state and federal law enforcement and security agencies to remain ever-vigilant to the possibility of terrorist attacks. But it’s also a reminder that average citizens can and do play critical roles in thwarting terrorists.

When the suspicious man caught on video leaving the area shortly before the smoking bomb was discovered is caught by authorities, it’s highly likely his capture will be due in part to information provided by concerned citizens.


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