U.S. officials: Times Square bomb plot appears to have “international links”; Update: New leads on suspects; Video: The detonation, as it happened

posted at 4:19 pm on May 3, 2010 by Allahpundit

I can’t quite bring myself to believe that a bona fide, Taliban-trained bomber would be so stupid as to use non-explosive fertilizer, but I suppose jihadis have their “D students” too. Besides, if this was indeed a revenge attack for the killings of the two Al Qaeda capos in Iraq, as that Taliban tape claimed, it had to be pulled together lickety split. And speed means sloppiness.

Obligatory caveat: No one’s saying yet that it’s jihadi-related, merely that it looks to have a “foreign nexus.” Although there sure is a lot of activity all of a sudden in Talibanistan.

The failed car bombing in Times Square increasingly appears to have been coordinated by several people in a plot with international links, Obama administration officials said Tuesday…

Another U.S. official, recounting a conversation with intelligence officials, said, “Don’t be surprised if you find a foreign nexus. . . . They’re looking at some tell-tale signs and they’re saying it’s pointing in that direction.”

Officials cautioned that even if the investigation points toward an international link, rather than domestic or anti-government groups, that does not mean al-Qaeda or another terrorist organization is necessarily involved…

Police said the bomb would have created a fireball that likely would have killed or wounded many people, making it the most serious bombing attempt in the United States since the Christmas Day incident aboard a commercial flight bound for Detroit.

Holder hinted at “substantial progress” in the investigation this morning; combine that with the WaPo piece and it sounds like the cops now know a lot more than they can safely let on yet. One thing they can say: Apparently there was a second suspect caught on film running north on Broadway and away from the vehicle around the time everything started happening on Saturday night. The gun locker in the back weighed around 200 lbs. with the fertilizer in it, too, which may mean that two men were needed to lift it in. (Or maybe one guy loaded the empty locker in first and then tossed in the bags?) Oh, also in the vicinity at the time, coincidentally enough? Younus Abdullah Muhammed, the guy who runs the Islamist website that threatened “South Park.” He was a few blocks away on 42nd Street, reportedly shrieking about Obama through a bullhorn.

It’s almost not worth speculating on whether this is jihadis or domestic terrorists at work, since drawing the wrong conclusion either way will leave the left or right screaming at you. To my eye, the evidence looks mixed. It sounds like the suspects abandoned the vehicle when the fireworks in the back started going off prematurely — remember, there were timers back there, so presumably this was meant to blow later in the evening — but running from a bomb isn’t very martyr-like. If plans for a time bomb go awry, one would think the orders from jihad HQ are to stay put, take one for the team, and make sure the bomb detonates properly. On the other hand, domestic terrorists tend to be a bit more deliberately symbolic in their choice of targets: Anti-government nut McVeigh blew up a federal building, tax-hater Joe Stack flew his plane into an IRS office, anti-abortion fanatic Eric Rudolph attacked clinics, etc. Jihadis target symbolic locations too, of course (as we New Yorkers know only too well), but they also have a fondness for targets of opportunity like the London or Madrid subway systems where they can wipe out a bunch of people randomly. Times Square, landmark though it be, seems to fall more into the latter category. Offhand, I can’t think what “message” a domestic terrorist would be trying to send with an attack there — if it’s related to Wall Street, they could have made the five-minute drive downtown and detonated there — but then, it’s a mistake to presume that anyone nutty enough to jerry-rig a car bomb would follow any traditional M.O. Could be that this is a righty or lefty loon who simply thinks the random-attack jihad approach is a niftier way to go. They don’t call ‘em lunatics for nothing.

Via Breitbart, here’s Gibbs assuring the press corps that yes, no matter who’s responsible, of course this is a terrorism. Too bad our Secretary for Homeland Security wasn’t so clear-sighted when she danced around the question this morning.

Update: ABC is digging. Second look at the Taliban tape?

One senior official said there are several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing and that at least one of them is a Pakistani-American

Other law enforcement officials said the investigation was closing in on the driver of the vehicle and an unknown number of others connected to him…

Officials told ABC News Senior Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas that the Connecticut owner of the vehicle told them he had sold the Nissan SUV last month in an unrecorded sale to an “Arabic or Latino looking man” in his 20′s or 30′s, for a few hundred dollars in cash.

Update: Via HuffPo, a Brazilian tourist was right there with camera rolling as the “firecrackers” in the back of the SUV went off. My understanding of the incident until now was that only the local street vendors noticed something amiss and that the cops moved people in the area way back before anything happened in the vehicle. Not so. As you’ll see, there were still crowds around and the firecrackers themselves were heavy duty enough to cause a serious boom. Listen to the guy off-camera shouting about the Taliban 30 seconds in; bystanders clearly knew what the risk was here. If you’re a New Yorker, especially a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, this is tough to watch.

 


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