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Sunday, May 2

Times Square bomb-South Park Muhammad cartoon connection explored; bomb type mirrors three 2007 U.K. bombs; Pak Taliban get into the act

Update 7:50 PM EDT
Phooey! I should have checked at Long War Journal before I posted the Reuters report (below) that NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said New York police have "no evidence" to support a claim of responsibility by the Pakistani Taliban.

They may have no evidence but it's too soon to cross the Pak Taliban off the list of suspects. Bill Roggio reported for LWJ at 10:24 AM EDT today:
A top Pakistani Taliban commander took credit for yesterday's failed car bomb attack in New York City.

Qari Hussain Mehsud, the top bomb maker for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he takes "fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA." Qari Hussain made the claim on an audiotape accompanied by images that was released on a YouTube website that calls itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel.

The tape has yet to be verified, but US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal believe it is legitimate. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel on YouTube was created on April 30. Officials believe it was created to announce the Times Square attack, and Qari Hussain’s statement was pre-recorded.

All indications are the tape is legitimate. YouTube has pulled the video and shut down the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel since this article was published.

"This attack is a revenge for the great & valuable martyred leaders of mujahideen," Qari Hussain said. He listed Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was killed in a Predator strike in August 2009, and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the former leader of al Qaeda Islamic State of Iraq who was killed by Iraqi forces in mid-April. And although he was not mentioned, an image of Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was also displayed in the images accompanying the audiotape.

Qari Hussain also said the failed attack was "revenge for the Global American interference & terrorism in Muslim countries, especially in Pakistan for Lal Masjid operation," a reference to the July 2008 Pakistani military assault on Islamists holed up in the Red Mosque in Islamabad, as well as Predator strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas and the arrest and detention of Pakistani scientist Aifa Siddique.

Qari Hussain warned NATO that it must denounce the US and apologize for "the massacres in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistani tribal areas otherwise be prepared for the worst destruction and devastation in their regions."

At the opening of the tape, the failed car bomb was described as a "jaw-breaking blow to Satan USA," however Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the device, which failed to detonate, as “amateurish.”
As I've mentioned before that the TTP hold the Pakistani military responsible for the Lal Masjid massacre of children even though they surely see the USA as complicit because we support the Pak military. In any event the LWJ report underscores that it's too soon to cross any suspects off the list.

The LWJ report also verifies that the Telegraph article below was in error, as I suspected, when they reported that U.S. forces had been responsible for killing Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri in Iraq; it was the Iraqi military.

One more correction, or at least amplification. The Telegraph article mentions that the author of the post warning South Park's creators is a "a US-born Muslim convert called Abu Talhah al Amrikee." Maybe so, but the webmaster, the person who authors the website is a U.S. born Muslim convert named Younus Abdullah Muhammad. This is the person Aaron Klein interviewed today and last Sunday. (See below and this WND report by Aaron from April 20.

So, I don't know where the Telegraph got the other name from and I don't want to spend any more time beating the bushes. As I noted earlier today the Time Square bombing incident is in the fog-of-war phase. So in my view it's best handled by blogs and reporters that specialize in intelligence on terrorist issues.
Note: This 'fog-of-war' story is so fast-moving that this is the last post I'll be doing on it.
The anonymous T-shirt seller who raised the alarm declined to give his name when he was approached by reporters, but asked what he had to say to New Yorkers, he said: "See something, say something."

  • Car with bomb was parked yards from offices of Viacom, which broadcasts South Park cartoon

  • Last Sunday Aaron Klein (of Aaron Klein Investigative Radio and lead author of The Manchurian President), interviewed the webmaster for US-based Revolution Muslim website. (Podcast) The website had warned on April 14 that South Park's creators would face violent reprisals for featuring the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. Aaron interviewed him again today live on his show for a half hour. (Podcast available tomorrow) Aaron will provide a report on John Batchelor's news show tonight at 9:20 PM EDT. Listen Online or get podcast on Monday.

  • Bomb type the same used in 2007 London and Glasgow International Airport attempted car bombings by Muslim terrorists

  • Pakistan Taliban claim responsibility for bombing; call it revenge for killing of two al Qaeda commanders in Iraq. According to Reuters report at 4:07 PM EDT today, on Sunday NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said New York police have "no evidence" to support a claim of responsibility by the Pakistani Taliban.

  • Reportedly New York City police have ruled out the Pakistan Taliban as suspects but it's too soon to rule out any suspects.

  • FBI investigating 911 emergency call made by anonymous caller at 4 AM EDT from payphone a few blocks away from Times Square car bomb; he said Times Square incident was a diversion and would be followed by a “massive explosion” at an unspecified location.

  • Counterterrorism expert B. Raman immediately picked up on the similarity of the Times Square bomb construction and delivery method to the attempted bombings in 2007 in the U.K.

    Reuters reported at 1:49 PM EDT on the Taliban claim:
    The Pakistani Taliban announced its responsibility for the New York attack in revenge for the two leaders al-Baghdadi and al-Mahajer and Muslim martyrs," said a statement on a website commonly used by Islamists.
    The (U.K.) Telegraph reported on the possible South Park connection:
    Police in New York are investigating whether a car bomb in Times Square was targeted on the makers of the TV series South Park because of a controversial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

    By Gordon Rayner and Alex Spillius in New York
    Published: 8:00PM BST 02 May 2010

    The device, which failed to detonate, was left near the offices of Viacom, which broadcasts the provocative cartoon series on its Comedy Central network.

    Last month a posting on an Islamic website warned South Park’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that they could face violent reprisals after an episode shown on April 14th featured Muhammad in a bear suit.

    The posting on the US-based Revolution Muslim website said Stone and Parker would “probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh”, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim angered by his film about Muslim women.

    David Paterson, the Governor of New York, described the Times Square incident as an "act of terrorism."

    He said: “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.”

    Detectives are also understood to be investigating striking similarities between the New York bomb and two car bombs planted by Islamic terrorists outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London in 2007. [And the Glasgow car bomb; see Wikipedia links above on all three bombings.]

    In both cases, the devices comprised cylinders of propane gas and cans full of petrol intended to be ignited by electronic detonators.

    A further potential link to the London attack emerged when the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the Times Square bomb in a posting on an Islamist website.

    It said the New York bomb had been intended to avenge the deaths of two "Muslim martyrs" named as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as al-Mahajer, who were killed by US forces in Tikrit 12 days ago. [I thought those two were killed by Iraqi forces but I'll double check.]

    The two al-Qaeda operatives are thought to have inspired the Tiger Tiger bombings and to have met Bilal Abdulla, the NHS doctor convicted of the London attack, who wrote a dedication to the two men on his laptop computer.

    However, the Pakistani Taliban have in the past falsely claimed responsibility for attacks, and US security analysts said it was too early to say whether the claim was genuine. The White House said investigators were keeping an open mind on whether the motive was rooted abroad or linked to a domestic cause in the US.

    The Times Square bomb was found inside a dark green Nissan Pathfinder, left with its engine running and hazard lights flashing near the junction of 45th Street and Broadway, yards from the Viacom building.

    The author of the Revolution Muslim posting had published the address of Comedy Central in New York – a separate building from Viacom - encouraging Muslims to “protest” outside.

    It also included audio clips of the al-Qaeda suspect Anwar al-Awlaki calling for the murder of anyone who has “defamed” Muhammad. Yemen-based al-Awlaki reportedly helped plan the failed Detroit airline bombing last Christmas and is said to have been “spiritual adviser” to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

    The author of the post, a US-born Muslim convert called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, said it had been intended as “not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them”.

    The warning was taken so seriously that Comedy Central heavily censored the following episode of South Park, which had originally contained further references to Muhammad.

    Images of the Prophet are widely regarded as forbidden in Islam, and in 2006 Comedy Central banned Stone and Parker from depicting Muhammad in an episode which followed worldwide protests over a caricature of the Prophet by a Danish cartoonist.

    Saturday night’s incident began at 6.34 pm local time (11.34 BST) when a T-shirt vendor, who was a Vietnam veteran, alerted police when he noticed smoke coming out of the car.

    Wayne Rhatigan, the mounted policeman who was first on the scene, said: “I did a lap around the vehicle. The inside was smoking. I smelled gunpowder and knew it might blow. I thought it might blow any second.”

    Witnesses reported hearing a "popping" noise coming from inside the vehicle. New York police spokesman Paul Browne said: "It appeared that it was in the process of detonating, but malfunctioned."

    The anonymous T-shirt seller who raised the alarm declined to give his name when he was approached by reporters, but asked what he had to say to New Yorkers, he said: "See something, say something."
    The car contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two five gallon gasoline containers, two clocks with batteries, electrical wires and a 4ft by 2ft metal box.

    New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said: "I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire."

    Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, returned immediately to the city from a White House dinner.

    Speaking at the scene, he said: "We are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.

    "The bomb squad confirmed that the suspicious vehicle did contain an explosive device. We have no idea who did this or why."

    Mr Bloomberg said the wiring of the bomb "looked amateurish" and it had used "consumer grade fireworks" that were easily obtainable.

    He added that it was too early to speculate on the motives of the bomber. He said: "There's no evidence it was tied to... Viacom or anything else."

    Sal Cassano, New York’s fire commissioner, said the device had the explosive potential to “take down the front of a building”.

    He said: "This wasn't make believe. This wasn't a false alarm. This was the real deal - to hurt people.”

    Police have also established that the car's number plates, which were from Connecticut, were not the ones registered to it. They have already spoken to the owner of the plates who said he had taken them to a scrapyard.

    Mr Bloomberg said police had no reports of anyone being seen running away from the vehicle after abandoning it, though the vehicle was caught on CCTV driving down 45th Street six minutes before the alarm was raised.

    President Barack Obama praised the quick response by the New York Police Department and said the federal government was prepared to provide support.

    The FBI is also investigating a 911 emergency call made from a payphone a few blocks away from the car bomb at 4am on Sunday local time, in which the anonymous caller said the Times Square incident was merely a diversion and would be followed by a “massive explosion” at an unspecified location.

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