Monday, May 03, 2010

The gem of the following news report is here:

"The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In a one-minute video, the group said the attack was in revenge for the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and the recent killings of the top leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq."

Doesn't this remind you of the hackneyed joke about the famous rape case? A young tigress was raped in the middle of the night. The jungle police was looking for the rapist and was questioning every lion, tiger, and cheetah. And then the phone rang. It was the mouse. He claimed responsibility of the rape.

Cops quiz SUV owner after failed NYC bombing
Investigators also looking for man seen on security video in Times Square

NEW YORK - New York City police have spoken to the registered owner of the vehicle used as a homemade car bomb in the heart of Times Square but say he is not considered a suspect.

Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne would not give further details Monday.

The dark-colored sport utility vehicle didn't have a clearly visible vehicle identification number. Its license plates came from a car found in a Connecticut repair shop.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said a white man in his 40s was spotted in security video footage about half a block from where the vehicle was left on Saturday evening with its engine running and hazard lights flashing.

In a video released by police, the man, who appears to be thin, is seen removing a dark shirt, stuffing it into some sort of bag and walking away down the sidewalk, carrying the bag and glancing at least twice over his shoulder.

Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Monday that investigators had some good leads in addition to the videotape.

He said it was too early in the probe to say whether the incident was of foreign or domestic origin, or to designate it as a terrorist incident, but he did say that those behind the act "intended to spread terror across New York."

Police said they'll be releasing more video of people seen acting suspiciously in and around Times Square, including footage, taken by a tourist, of a man running away from the scene, heading north.

Police told NBC News that it would be incorrect to characterize the people, including the man shown changing his shirt, as "suspects." They were sought for questioning, a spokesman said.

Police found the "amateurish" but potentially powerful bomb in a smoking SUV in the busy theater district Saturday night after being alerted by two street vendors, then cleared the streets of thousands of tourists so they could dismantle it.

The 1993 Nissan Pathfinder contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components, police said. Timers were connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks that were apparently intended to set the gas cans afire, then ignite the three barbecue-grill-sized propane tanks.

Commissioner Kelly said it was "the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem, create casualties."

Police also found eight bags weighing more than 100 pounds of a substance that turned out to be fertilizer that was incapable of exploding.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said that unlike the ammonium nitrate grade fertilizer that has been used in terror attacks including the Oklahoma City bombing, this fertilizer would not have caused a massive explosion.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was no evidence of a link to al-Qaida or any other militant organization in the failed bomb attack that prompted the evacuation of the teeming entertainment and shopping district.

"It's unfortunate that this happened. I'm confident that we will find out who did it," Bloomberg told reporters outside a Times Square restaurant.

Officials were treating the incident as a potential terrorist attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on NBC's "Meet the Press," though it was too soon to tell who is responsible. She added that investigators had no suspects but that they had recovered forensic evidence, including fingerprints, from the vehicle.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. In a one-minute video, the group said the attack was in revenge for the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and the recent killings of the top leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Kelly said there was no evidence to support the Pakistani Taliban's claim.

In another video released early Monday and apparently dated early April, Pakistan's Taliban chief promised attacks on major U.S. cities, a monitoring group said.

"We avoided what could have been a very deadly event," Bloomberg said at a news conference earlier Sunday. "It certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact."

A T-shirt vendor and a handbag vendor alerted police at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the height of dinner hour before theatergoers head to shows.

T-shirt vendor and Vietnam veteran Lance Orton said he alerted a mounted policeman when he noticed smoke coming from a parked SUV.

"People take it lightly," Orton said on NBC's TODAY show. "I've had a few situations where I've told people about things; they say, 'That's nothing.' But you can't take that attitude."

One of Orton's helpers suggested calling 911. Orton said he pointed at mounted police Officer Wayne Rhatigan, who was on duty in Times Square.

"There's a patrolman right there on the horse. I asked one of my guys, 'Go over there and grab that officer,' " Orton recalled. "He came over on horseback. He saw what I did. It was steadily getting worse."

After the vendors noticed the SUV, police cleared buildings and streets at the so-called "Crossroads of the World." Officers were deployed around the area with heavy weapons on empty streets in the heart of busy midtown Manhattan.

A white robotic police arm then broke the windows of the vehicle to remove any explosive devices.

While he called the device "amateurish," Bloomberg said it could have been deadly.

"We are very lucky," he said.

A Connecticut license plate on the vehicle did not match the SUV, according to authorities. Police interviewed the vehicle's owner, who told police he had sent the plates to a nearby junkyard, Bloomberg said.

'Act of terrorism'
New York Gov. David Paterson called the incident an "act of terrorism."

"Luckily, no one is hurt, and now the full attention of city, state and federal law enforcement will be turned to bringing the guilty party to justice in this act of terrorism," Paterson said in a statement.

[Photo courtesy of AP]