Saturday, May 1, 2010

New York City's Times Square, a Smoking SUV, and Decisions

Update (May 1, 2010, 11:26 p.m. Central; 04:26 UTC)

I've learned to be cautious about accepting information leaked by an anonymous source during a rapidly-evolving situation, but this is interesting, plausible, and suggestive:
"Cops find suspected car bomb in Times Square"
The Associated Press (May 1, 2010)

"Police evacuated buildings and cleared streets of thousands of tourists around New York City's Times Square after finding an apparent car bomb in a parked SUV.

"New York City police say a mounted police officer noticed smoke coming from the SUV at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. A law enforcement official tells The Associated Press that bomb investigators found propane tanks, powder and an apparent timing device inside the vehicle. The official wasn't authorized to release the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Police evacuated several residential and commercial buildings and cleared several streets of thousands of tourists milling around on a warm Saturday night...."
We'll see how this develops.
Update (May 1, 2010, 10:57 p.m. Central; May 2, 03:57 UTC)

Looks like NYC authorities made the right decision:
"NY police confirm car bomb caused Times Sq. evacuation"
Reuters (May 1, 2010)

"The New York Police Department said on Saturday the incident that caused Times Square to be evacuated was what appeared to be a car bomb, which was being dismantled by officers on the scene.

" 'This appears to be a car bomb that the bomb squad is in the process of dismantling,' police spokesman Paul Browne said. 'We do not know the motive.'..."
I'm strongly inclined to believe that New York's Finest don't know why that bomb was planted. They may not know who planted it: yet.

I'm not going to speculate: not with so little to go on. The "obvious" suspects may not be the guilty parties:Bottom line? For me, its' that nobody seems to have been hurt. That's good news. Identifying who planted the bomb, and why, can wait: while competent professionals sort through the evidence.

The update ends here. I'm leaving the original post as-is.
Odds are pretty good that this is a vehicular fire that happened in the wrong place:
"UPDATE 2-New York's Times Sq. evacuated for suspicious vehicle"
Reuters (May 1, 2010)

"Police evacuated New York's Times Square on Saturday night after a dark-colored sports utility vehicle was found to be smoking and a small 'flash' was observed by firefighters on the scene.

"Officers at the scene said the evacuation order stemmed from an 'emergency investigation' and dozens of officers blocked access to the busy central Manhattan square, which is popular with tourists and theater-goers.

"New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said a vehicle had been left in Times Square, with smoke seen coming from it.

"There was an unconfirmed report that someone was seen running from the car, Browne said. A bomb squad responded and a small fire was extinguished, he said.

" 'We're just trying to determine if it was anything other than a car fire,' said Browne. 'We don't know yet if it's anything more than that.'

"The SUV is parked very close to a production of 'The LionKing' on 45th Street. Women in evening gowns were among the crowd on one of the warmest nights of the year and the busiest night of the week for Broadway theaters in the area....

"...Reuters reporters on the scene said they heard an explosion from the area of the SUV around 9:15 p.m. An NYPD community affairs officer said that and another small explosion heard by bystanders were the sound of water cannons aimed at the vehicle in an attempt to break through the glass...."

An SUV catches fire: What's the Big Deal?

Some time ago, here in the small town in central Minnesota where I live, I was on hand when a vehicle caught fire near Main Street. I'm not sure if it made the news, even in the local weekly.

Naturally enough: vehicle fires happen, and this one was brought under control quickly. It was a big deal for the vehicle owner, but not for many other folks.

When something like that happens in New York City, the Big Apple, near Times Square: yeah, it's a kind of big deal.

From the sounds of it, emergency responders in New York City handled the situation sensibly. They (1) tried to put out the fire; and (2) started evacuating people in case this wasn't just a vehicular fire.

Let's assume, hypothetically, that this SUV was packed with explosives. The detonation mechanism didn't work the way it was supposed to, and it started smoking. First responders tried to put the fire out, but didn't bother folks seeing the Lion King - or anyone else.

Then, a few minutes later, when that part of New York City disappeared in a bright flash: well there would be quite a few questions asked later.

So, no: I don't think that evacuation was an over-reaction. In 20-20 hindsight, it's easy to see that an evacuation wasn't necessary. At the time, it may not be quite so obvious.

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In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.