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Police narrow manhunt to two suspects in car-bomb attempt

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-04

Police narrowed their search to two suspects Monday as the manhunt continues for the perpetrators of a attempted car-bomb attack in New York's Times Square. It is still unclear if those responsible had international ties.

AFP - Police Monday tightened the net in a huge hunt for the perpetrator of an attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square, but it remained unclear whether there were any foreign links to the botched attack.

Part of the probe centered on two people captured on film leaving the scene late Saturday, New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Monday.

One was caught on security camera walking away from the green Nissan Pathfinder that had been left in the teeming tourist area with a large but misfiring bomb inside.

The man looked about in a "furtive" manner, Kelly said, and removed one layer of upper clothing.

Another man appears on footage shot by a tourist, Kelly told CNN. "It's a picture of an individual running north on Broadway," he said.

"These are not suspects. These are people we would like to speak to," he said.

Police were also combing the Nissan sport utility vehicle and its rudimentary bomb consisting of timers, wires, fireworks, gasoline, propane tanks and fertilizer.

CNN television quoted unidentified sources saying that the SUV, which had had its identification marks erased, was bought three weeks ago for 1,800 dollars in a private sale through the Craigslist website.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that police also continued to "scrutinize the videos that we keep getting, images from 82 NYPD cameras in and around Times Square and from scores of privately owned cameras in the area."

He said the fertilizer found in the back of the car -- initially feared to have been similar to an ingredient previously found in powerful homemade weapons -- was determined to be "a non-explosive kind."

While police have a mass of physical evidence that they hope will lead to the driver of the Nissan, there was still little clarity in official statements about the motive or even whether the attack had any foreign link.

New York has been on constant watch for Islamist attacks since the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

So far, the only group to claim responsibility for the would-be bombing is the Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban.

This was quickly dismissed by Bloomberg and Kelly. However, a video emerged showing Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud -- reported to have been killed months ago -- vowing to attack major US cities.

Another possible indication of jihadist links is the similarity of the botched bombing to a failed double car bomb attempt in London's entertainment districts in 2007.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the attack clearly qualified as terrorism. "I would say that that was intended to terrorize," he said. "Whoever did that would be categorized as a terrorist."

But Bloomberg was cautious about suggesting an Al-Qaeda or other foreign hand in the incident.

"While there is no evidence that this terrorist act was planned by any terrorist organization, we're just not ruling anything in or anything out," Bloomberg said.

Analysts doubted that Tehreek-e-Taliban could have been involved in the seemingly slapdash Times Square bomb.

The same group falsely claimed responsibility for a 2009 gun massacre by a disturbed Vietnamese immigrant in Binghamton, New York, police say.

The ranking Republican congressman on the House intelligence committee, Pete Hoekstra, told Fox News that Al-Qaeda might still have sponsored the attack, even if the bomb itself was amateurish.

"In one way you take a look at it and say 'Why would you again take responsibility for a failed, amateurish attempt?'" Hoekstra said. "But they may just want to say 'Hey, look we're trying to strike at the heart of America.'"

Meanwhile, the private Stratfor intelligence think tank warned that a homegrown jihadist or "lone wolf" was also dangerous.

"It is likely that the attackers will attempt a follow-on attack unless they are found and apprehended," Stratfor said.

The scare again raised tensions with US security forces already on edge since a young Nigerian allegedly attempted to set off a bomb on a US airliner as it came in to land in Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Day.

New York is considered a particularly high profile target and authorities here have dismantled a string of alleged terrorist plots since 9/11.

In February, Afghan migrant and self-confessed Al-Qaeda agent Najibullah Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty to a plot to set off bombs in New York's subway system. He faces up to life in prison.

Bloomberg says the city is pushing ahead with plans to expand an intensive network of security cameras linked to police analysts. The system is being set up in lower Manhattan, including around Wall Street, and will spread to Midtown areas like Times Square.

"That will greatly enhance our ability and the ability of the police to detect suspicious activity in real time, and disrupt possible attacks," Bloomberg said.

Date created : 2010-05-04

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