Reuters reports that at 9:30 am on 17 September an explosive device detonated in Seaside Park, New Jersey. The device was hidden in a trashcan near the starting line of a Marine Corp charity race along the beach boardwalk, says CNN and Heavy. The location of the seat of the blast is reportedly D Street and Ocean Avenue.
The bomb consisted of three pipe bombs connected to a cell phone timer, specifically a flip phone. Only one of the bombs exploded.
The detonation injured no one, but town officials called a halt to the race that was happening in the area, the Seaside Semper Five.
The Guardian reports that on 17 September at 8:30 pm in Chelsea, NYC, a bomb exploded in, or next to, a dumpster, injuring 29. The New York City Police Department has stated that the seat of the blast was in front of 131 West 23d Street. (Other reports say 133 W. 23d Street.)
Photos of the blast site show a severely mangled dumpster and a debris field (roughly 100 feet X 100 feet) that encompasses the sidewalk and street. TV news on 18 September said that the dumpster was thrown more than 100 feet from the seat of the blast.
At 11:00 pm, the NYPD located another bomb on 27th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Present reporting says that this device was contained in a pressure cooker and had ball bearings inside to use as shrapnel. It was connected to a cell phone timer, specifically a flip phone.
Some reporting says that Christmas tree lights were used as igniters for some or all of the bombs, but this is unconfirmed from official sources. It should be noted that the San Bernardino attackers (2015) used Christmas tree lights as igniters for their bombs.
A 9-11 call to police said there would be more attacks in the future. Investigators assert that the same bomb builder is linked to both attacks.
Additional bombs found
Confirmed reports say that two homeless people found a backpack or duffel with bombs in it at the Elizabeth, NJ, train station. The two removed the bombs from the platform, and police soon after destroyed them.
At 8:00 pm on 17 September, a man named Dahir Adan, wearing a private security company uniform, went on a stabbing frenzy in Crossroads Mall, St. Cloud Minnesota. Adan’s attack injured nine: two females and seven males, reports the Daily Mail. The youngest victim was a 15-year old girl. Adan reportedly asked at least one victim if they were Muslim before he attacked, and he was heard referencing Islam in the midst of his frenzy. An off duty police officer, Jason Falconer, shot Adan dead.
ISIS released a statement claiming responsibility for the stabbings: “The executor of the stabbing attacks in Minnesota yesterday was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
The bombing investigation unfolded unusually quickly. Authorities began looking for their NYC/NJ primary suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, on 18 September. Phone number and fingerprint evidence linked him to the bombs, say reports.
For the first time in U.S. history, authorities put out an electronic wanted poster over the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alerts looking for Rahami, mostly in the NJ and NYC area.
On the run, Rahami finally clashed with police in Linden, New Jersey, where he was wounded and taken in to custody. Investigators found a journal he left behind citing Islamist jihadist reasoning for the bombings. Some quotes from the journal include:
- “You (USA government) continue your … slaught against … mujahideen be it Afhanistan, Iraq, Sham, Palestine… etc,”
- “Brother Osama bin Laden offered you a truce…”
- “I looked for guidence [sic] and Alhumdulilah Guidance came. Sheikh Anwar Brother Adnani Dawla [ISIS spokesperson]. Said it clearly attack the kuffar in their backyard.”
- “Anwar al Awlaki has spoken the truth. ‘Join us in our new front’ IE Yemen.”
- “Inshallah the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to your Oppression.”
- “pipe bombs, pressure cooker bombs on … in the streets they plan to run a mile.”
- “In my heart I pray to the beautiful wise Allah. To not take jihad away from. I begged for shahadat [martyrdom] & Inshallah this call will be answered.”
Reports on 19 September say the NYC bombs used Tannerite explosives, a common and legal target-marking explosive used by shooting enthusiasts. Since Tannerite is difficult to set off – it requires a bullet moving 2,000 feet per second to make it explode – it could be that there was another compound in the bombs used to initiate the blasts. Additionally, Tannerite begins to degrade 45 minutes after it has been mixed and poured into a container, so it is a curious choice to use as a main compound for a bomb. This could be why the second device in NYC did not explode.
Black powder was detected in the New Jersey bombings.
At present, there are five takeaways here.
First, these bombings and the stabbings – three attacks all within a 12 hour time period – offer yet more proof that the United States is being plagued by an active irregular warfare threat, just like France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Bangladesh, and other such places. This is par for the course after attacks such as San Bernardino, Orlando, Chattanooga, and Garland, Texas, just to name four. The U.S. is on a war footing whether the country realizes it or not.
Second, U.S. law enforcement rapidly secured the bombing case, demonstrating that the federal-local law enforcement counter terrorism mechanism can be highly effective. It did not prevent these bombings from happening, however.
Third, while the bombings were certainly dangerous, the sloppiness involved indicates a semi-professional (or less than that) terrorist cell or individual, probably home grown with limited training. One sloppiness element here directly refers to the poor bomb detonation ratio (five bombs deployed – one device was a bundle of three – and only two exploded.) More sloppiness was demonstrated by the alleged perpetrator not covering his tracks regarding fingerprints and cell phone numbers. (It is unclear if the several bombs [reportedly one bundle of five] found at the Elizabeth, NJ, train station were purposefully deployed or dumped by an operative who decided not to carry out his/her mission. If deployed, that would make the detonation ratio six bombs deployed with only two exploding.) Overall, a more professional team with a higher level of training and experience most likely would have carried out more successful bombing missions.
Fourth, evidence suggests that the culprits in both the stabbings and bombings were Islamist jihadist motivated. Here’s why:
- ISIS took responsibility for the stabbings.
- Dahir Adan asked at least one victim if they were Muslim before his attack, a common Islamist jihadist terror tactic seen in operations such as the Westgate mall attack in Kenya in 2013.
- Ahmad Khan Rahami’s journal entries clearly link his fight with Islamist jihadist propagandists from both al Qaeda and ISIS. Additionally, his family and friends say Rahami seems to have been radicalized in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Pressure cooker bombs have been used by Islamist jihadist before in cases such as the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. The Inspire magazine connection, al Qaeda’s terrorism-promoting magazine, is clear as well. A previous issue told readers how to make these bombs.
- The Marine Corps race suggests anti-U.S. military and anti-civilian targeting combined. This bolsters the Islamist jihad hypothesis angle, and so does just generally targeting New York City.
- ISIS has called for attacks in the U.S. for several moths now. One of the most recent was published on 6 September 2016. It called on supporters to attack people on the streets, or commuters, or flower vendors, or any other manner of civilians, etc. Another ISIS threat was issued on 8 September calling on supporters to attack sports venues. This follows the exact same call to action (and then attacks) that have been happening in France, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh.
Ultimately, more attacks like these can be expected in the United States. It is likely that other terrorist individuals and/or groups will learn from the lessons of the mall stabbings and the NYC/NJ bombings. They are likely to increase operational security and plan for more destructive attacks.
Mumbai 2008 and Paris 2015 style attacks and/or simple to sophisticated bombing attacks should be expected by U.S. law enforcement and government security entities. Islamist jihadist-motivated stabbings like the one in St. Cloud have happened in New York City already, they are not uncommon in France, and they are commonplace in Israel. Attacks should be anticipated not only in the obvious metro areas such as Washington, DC, and New York City, but also in smaller towns such as Elizabeth, NJ. Attacking both metro and rural targets is a common Islamist jihadist tactic – specifically an ISIS tactic – that has been made readily apparent in France. It is now evolving in the US.
Sources and further reading:
“New York bomb contained residue of Tannerite,” Israel National News, 19 September 2016.
“The hero cop who shot dead rampaging Minnesota mall knifeman who stabbed nine after asking if they were Muslim and talking about Allah,” Daily Mail, 18 September 2016.
“ISIS wing claims responsibility for Minnesota mall attack,” CNN, 18 September 2016.
“Big blast, 29 injuries in NYC; pressure cooker device removed nearby,” USA Today, 18 September 2016.
“At least 29 injured as explosion rocks New York street,” ITV, 18 September 2016.
“Bomb explodes near Marine Corps race in New Jersey,” CNN, 17 September 2016.
“Seaside Park Explosion Photos: Pictures from the Scene,” Heavy, 17 September 2016.
“Device Explodes at Marine Race on Jersey Shore: Police,” NBC 4, 17 September 2016.
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