Video from Times Square may show would-be bomber

By Scott Wilson and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 3, 2010

The car bomb discovered in Times Square would probably have killed or maimed many people, police officials and federal investigators said Sunday as they began assembling evidence collected from the homemade device, video surveillance footage and the vehicle itself to determine who attempted the attack on a warm spring evening in the heart of New York City.

Investigators acknowledged that much about the bombing attempt, the most serious in the United States since the Christmas Day incident aboard a commercial flight bound for Detroit, remains a mystery. That includes whether an organized group or a determined individual was responsible and whether an intelligence review will turn up clues that pointed to a possible attack.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at an afternoon news conference that the bomb found in a Nissan Pathfinder on Saturday night was "a sober reminder that New York is a target for people who want to come here and do us harm." He said the device would have sent up a fireball from the center of a popular tourist landmark known to have symbolic importance for militant groups at war with the United States.

In a statement, police said the other components still were "certainly capable of producing human casualties and broken windows but not enough to take down a structure," according to NYPD bomb squad experts.

The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility in a video posted on YouTube. Kelly and federal investigators said no evidence had surfaced linking the group to the bomb.

On Sunday night, a second video was posted by apparent representatives of the Pakistan Taliban, this one showing its commander, Hakimullah Mehsud, promising to launch attacks in the United States, according to Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism consultant at Flashpoint Partners.

Mehsud, who U.S. and Pakistan authorities initially believed was killed in January drone strike, was recorded saying, "The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in their major cities." He adds: "Our fedayeen have penetrated the terrorist America, we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America . . . in some days or a month's time."

The video is marked with the logo of the TTP official media wing, Umar Studios, and appears to be credible, Kohlmann said.

Investigators poring over hundreds of hours of surveillance video from New York identified a man Kelly described as white and in his 40s, who appeared to be acting suspiciously in an alley near the bomb's location. Police also identified the owner of the Pathfinder but did not release his name.

"Obviously, it wasn't an accident," Kelly said. "It was somebody who brought this to the location to send a message, to terrorize people in the area."

As the investigation unfolded, the White House said President Obama was closely monitoring its progress as he toured the Gulf Coast to assess the threat posed by the widening oil spill. Administration officials said Obama was notified of the incident Saturday evening as he attended the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, soon after vendors alerted police to the locked and smoking Pathfinder parked in a bustling Times Square.

"We're going to do what's necessary to protect the American people, to determine who is behind this potentially deadly act, and to see that justice is done," Obama told reporters in Venice, La.

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