Thursday, May 05, 2005

Homemade grenade blasts fan NY security fears

Yahoo! News
Homemade grenade blasts fan NY security fears

By Mark Egan and Claudia Parsons 11 minutes ago

Two homemade grenades exploded outside the building housing the British Consulate before dawn on Thursday just as election polls opened in Britain, raising concerns about New York's post-Sept. 11 security.

Windows were shattered, but no injuries were reported and no motive was known. Security experts said the incident highlighted the city's continued vulnerability despite its high-alert status and the protective measures undertaken since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The explosions at the midtown Manhattan office block near the United Nations occurred shortly after 3:30 a.m./0730 GMT when two metal dummy grenades packed with gunpowder exploded in a concrete flower box, police said.

"We do not at this point have any idea who did it or a motive," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a morning news conference near the building, which also houses other offices of foreign companies.

"It is true the British Consulate is in that building, but I don't think anybody should jump to conclusions," Bloomberg said, adding no one had claimed responsibility.

Police were examining videotape from security cameras that appeared to show a cyclist lighting and then throwing the grenades toward the building before fleeing the scene, law enforcement sources said.

Police were also questioning a man found loitering in the area. U.N. and police sources said he was a Dutch man who worked for the U.N. arms inspection agency, but was not considered a suspect.

The incident, which briefly upset British financial markets, occurred as British voters were deciding whether to return Prime Minister Tony Blair for a third term in office. In the short general election campaign Blair battled public anger against his support of the war in Iraq.

British Consul General Philip Thomas said: "I can't speculate about who this bomb might have been aimed at, whether it was us or someone else."


Howard Safir, police chief under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, said security in New York remains a grave concern, given how easy it is to obtain explosives and parts that can be fashioned into crude but potentially deadly bombs in America.

He said such devices are typically used to generate publicity rather than casualties. The grenade shells, without explosives, can be bought freely on the Internet for about $7 each.

New York has remained on high alert since the Sept. 11 attacks, when hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center's twin towers. City police now regularly hold security drills with machine gun toting police ever more common.

Following the bombing, the United Nations announced it was increasing security at its New York buildings as a precaution although it had no specific threat.

New York politicians complain that the city does not get its fair share of federal money being allocated to states to safeguard against terrorism.

A day earlier officials said that the Freedom Tower, the symbolic centerpiece of plans to rebuild at the World Trade Center site, must be redesigned to address security concerns raised by New York police.

Police fear the planned placement of the 1,776-foot (540-meter) office tower -- a height symbolic of the America's independence in 1776 -- would make it hard to guard against the threat of truck bombs. (Additional reporting by Walker Simon and Irwin Arieff, and Greg Frost in Boston)