Failed car bomb in Times Square called 'heartening'
NEW YORK—While a car bomb that failed to detonate at one of the city’s busiest areas could certainly have resulted in fatalities, the lack of sophistication of the make-shift explosive has led authorities to believe this was not an organized terrorist attempt.
Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said May 2 on CNN’s State of the Union program that the unexploded car bomb appeared to be an “amateurish” terrorism attempt, but that authorities are nonetheless treating the incident as a “potential terrorist attack.”
On May 1, police were alerted by two street vendors that smoke was coming from a Nissan Pathfinder parked on West 45th Street, which had been parked haphazardly at the curb with its engine running and its flashers on. Inside, the police found gasoline, propane, firecrackers and simple alarm clocks as well as eight bags of non-explosive-grade fertilizer inside a 55-inch-tall metal gun locker, according to The New York Times.
“This was not a very dangerous device, even if it had exploded,” said Christopher Falkenberg, president of Insite Security based in New York City. “You can’t make a super bomb by attaching a stick of dynamite to a propane cylinder and certainly not by throwing in some firecrackers. The bags of fertilizer were bags of crap, literally—they weren’t even nitrogen based.”
Had the car exploded, it would certainly have caused a significant fire, he said, but with only approximately 10 gallons of gasoline in the vehicle, the explosive was not powerful enough to jeopardize surrounding buildings.
The police have detained a man allegedly seen on surveillance footage removing layers of clothing (watch the video here). Police have identified the owner of the vehicle, but do not consider him a suspect.
While this event highlights the need to remain vigilant, Falkenberg emphasized that security professionals need to continue evaluating and assessing threats. “It’s important for security directors not to play into the hype and use their knowledge and skills to accurately identify real risks,” he said. “All in all I think this event is pretty heartening and as time goes on I believe more evidence will come out” that this individual was mentally unstable rather than associated with a terrorist group.
The most positive results from this event were the effective response by law enforcement, he said. “The police responded very well and maybe we’ve seen some great return on investment in the special units of the police department,” he said.