One year after Times Square scare, concerns endure

New Yorkers who alerted police to the smoking vehicle still descend on "The Crossroads of the World" as if it never happened.

Last Updated: May 01, 2011, 12:33 PM IST

New York: One year after a militant Pakistani
immigrant spread panic by driving a bomb-laden sport utility
vehicle into the heart of Times Square, New Yorkers, tourists
and even the street vendor who alerted police to the smoking
vehicle still descend on "The Crossroads of the World" as if
it never happened.

But behind the scenes, the New York Police Department and
other law enforcement agencies still watch for and worry about
the next terror plot against the city, something they say is
certain to come.

Experts say that while al Qaeda remains a threat, the
admitted would-be bomber in the Times Square case represented
a modern breed of homegrown terrorist - one with perhaps less
formal training and fewer resources than the September 11,
2001 attackers, but with equal audacity and a willingness to
stage smaller strikes that still have the power to paralyse a
city.

"The old al Qaeda that we were familiar with after 9/11
was very centrally controlled," said Randall Larsen, head of
the nonprofit Institute for Homeland Security. "Part of the
new al Qaeda is providing training and motivation, and in some
cases some money and equipment, to these splinter groups that
are around the world."

Since the May 1 bombing attempt by Faisal Shahzad of
Bridgeport, Connecticut, a naturalised US citizen originally
from Pakistani, the NYPD has continued to fine-tune trip wires
it hopes will stop other would-be terrorists.

Police have expanded programmes to monitor the stockpiles
and sales of fertilizer, household chemicals and other
potential homemade bomb ingredients; to patrol the subways
with bomb-sniffing dogs and heavy arms; and to use
license-plate readers, closed-circuit cameras and radiation
detectors to harden Wall Street and midtown targets against
dirty bomb and other attacks.

The next attacker is more likely to be a
less-sophisticated, "self-radicalised" terrorist, like
Shahzad, who sees himself more a follower of an extremist
social movement rather than a sworn member of a terror
network, said Peter Romaniuk, a professor at John Jay College
of Criminal Justice who specialises in international security
and counterterrorism.

The Shahzad case "is part of the evolution of the terror
threat," Romaniuk said. As for September 11, he added, "that
expeditionary-style of terrorism is less likely to occur these
days."

PTI