New York blast injuring 29 came 30 minutes before Uri attack
By Arul Louis
Thirty minutes before the terrorist attack on the Uri army base in India, an explosion described by an official as “terrorist” rocked the city Saturday night injuring 29 people in the midst of a tense election campaign and as the United Nations prepared for its annual summit.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters it was a “terrorist” act but added that he could not as yet link it to any international terrorist organisation as officials were still investigating the attack and no one has taken blame for it.
The blast at 8.30 pm local time was preceded by another explosion at an ex-servicemen’s charity event in neighboring New Jersey state where no one was injured.
Later in Minnesota, a man attacked people in a shopping mall hurting eight. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility only for the Minnesota attack on its web site.
Another explosive device made from a pressure cooker was found in New York city near the site of the explosion before it could go off.
There did not appear to be a direct connection between the Kashmir and New York attacks other than than the timeline. Seventeen Indian soldiers were killed in the Uri attack.
Officials publicly appeared to not have answers to some puzzling aspects of the New York attack. It took place away from any city landmarks and went off inside a heavy-duty metal container for storing debris from constructions, and although it was strong enough to have damaged nearby buildings, no one was killed.
It occurred on the same week of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, which was observed solemnly last Monday.
In the midst of a presidential election where international terrorism has emerged as major issue, Republican Party candidate Donald Trump was was quick to describe the explosion as a “bomb” within minutes of it happening and added, “and nobody knows exactly what’s going on, but boy, we are living in a (dangerous) time.”
His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, also said later it was a bombing but added a criticism of Trump for calling it a bomb shortly after it happened. “I think it’s always wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened,” she said.
Officials in the Democratic Party-controlled city were wary of calling the blast a terrorist act.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that it was an “intentional act” that was “violent” and “criminal” but strenously avoided calling terrorist. He said that the investigation was ongoing and that it was not possible now to determine if the motivation was “political or personal” and appealed for patience.
Heightening security fears, the explosion took place less than a mile from Times Square and barely two miles from the UN headquarters which will be hosting a high-level meeting on migration and the international refugee crisis on Monday ahead of the annual General Assembly summit the following week when more than 100 heads of government or state are expected.
“We will have a substantive NYPD (New York Police Department) presence” around the UN, De Blasio told reporters, “We will have a stronger presence.”
Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who took office on Saturday, told reporters that the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device that went off on 23rd Street and that its remnants were sent to a Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory.
He described the city as the “No. 1 target in the world” and said police had foiled 20 terrorist plots against the city in recent times.
The knife attack in St. Cloud in Minnesota 90 minutes after the New York attack was carried out by a man who asked people if they were Muslim before stabbing them, according to media reports. He was shot dead by police. The IS said in a statement that the man was a “soldier of the Islamic State.”
In the blast in New Jersey on Saturday morning, an IED in a back exploded around the time that participants in 5-km charity race to raise funds for ex-servicemen were to have passed the site. But the race was delayed and the runners had not reached there when it exploded. Officials said similar devices were found elsewhere in the area but did not explode.
O’Neill said that they were looking into connections between that and the attack in the city, but had no information as yet to connect them or rule out any links.
The other IED found four streets away in the city was described by officials as made from a pressure cooker. The would not say if the one that went off was a similar one.
In New York City’s Central Park an IED explosion in July seriously injured a man, whose leg was severed. That case has not been solved and officials have avoided calling it a “terrorist” act.
O’Neill said that he could not say if there was any connection between that and the latest attack.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)