Letters to Lawmakers May Be Tied to N.Y. Bombing

There's apparently no connection to an anti-war manifesto sent to members of Congress and a blast at a Times Square military recruiting station. The letters included photos of a man in front of the station in New York City. Video by AP
By Spencer S. Hsu and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 7, 2008

Authorities are investigating rambling letters and photographs mailed to several members of Congress that refer to a military recruiting station that was bombed by a hooded person riding a bicycle in New York's Times Square early yesterday morning, congressional officials said.

No injuries were reported in the 3:45 a.m. blast, which broke a glass door and window of the recruiting station and briefly shut down traffic.

The crude explosive was apparently placed in a metal ammunition box and left outside the one-story Armed Forces Recruiting Station on a traffic island between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, authorities said. Police said a hooded person wearing a backpack and riding a bicycle "in a suspicious manner" was seen in front of the station just before the blast, and security videos showed a subsequent explosion.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) said the blast "insults every one of our brave men and women in uniform stationed around the world."

He vowed, "Whoever the coward was that committed this disgraceful act on our city will be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly described the bomb as low-grade and "not a particularly sophisticated device." But he added: "This type of explosive can certainly cause injuries or even death."

Evidence was being shipped to the FBI's lab in Quantico for examination.

Kelly said police are trying to determine whether the bombing was related to two incidents in which a man on a bicycle was seen fleeing after less-powerful explosives were thrown at the British consulate in New York in May 2005 and the Mexican consulate last October.

The devices were described as novelty grenades packed with gunpowder, and both pre-dawn incidents caused no injuries. No one was arrested in either incident, Kelly said.

In Washington, U.S. Capitol Police said last night that several letters arrived in the past 24 hours at congressional offices containing a reference to the recruiting station but no threat to Congress or lawmakers. Police asked workers to preserve the letters -- all of which came in 5-by-8-inch manila envelopes with two $1 stamps and a white label with a return address -- for criminal investigation. Police did not disclose the address.

Senate aides said the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent an e-mail to other lawmakers stating that a few House members received a letter addressed to 'Members of Congress' with the statement "We did it" and a photograph of a man standing in front of the recruiting station before it was bombed. The e-mail said the man attached a political manifesto.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer confirmed that a photo was a part of the thick packet but said, "It is not clear who it is or where the photo is taken."

The letters "are long, and they are rambling," Gainer said. "They may have some evidentiary value; they may not. We are not at general quarters about this at all."

Gainer said roughly half a dozen letters have been received after clearing the congressional screening process, which can take days. Capitol Police, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service were investigating.

The Pentagon notified the roughly 1,650 military recruiting stations nationwide of the incident and advised recruiters to exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. Army spokesman Paul Boyce described the explosion as "an incident of vandalism."

Staff writers Dan Eggen, Mary Pat Flaherty, Paul Kane and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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