At this point, it seems pretty far-fetched to imagine that what we’ve got going is not a terror rampage. Set aside for a moment whether you like other people’s assumptions about who’s behind these attacks, and just ask yourself: is it really likely that for no common reason, pipe bombs were found planted in New Jersey, with one exploding; pressure-cooker devices were planted in Manhattan, with one exploding; and a stabbing rampage was launched at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota — all on 17 September?
Strangely, a chorus of special pleading is rising against the most sensible conclusion: that these events are likely to have been related in some way, even if it was only by ideological motivation.
In this determinedly neutral spirit, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city absorbed the lion’s share of the injured on Saturday, refused to call it terrorism when a device was detonated in a dumpster in a crowded area of Lower Manhattan.
Investigation is ongoing. Though we believe this was an intentional act, there is no credible terror threat against NYC at this moment.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 18, 2016
He assured viewers at his press conference that there was no evidence of a terror threat to the city. The explosive attack was merely an intentional one.
Apparently, we are to understand from this that it was not a case of someone absent-mindedly leaving his IED to go off in a dumpster.
How this was established is a little unclear though. Skeptics are still searching for the non-terror motive an intentional dumpster-explosive setter might have, and how authorities would know he had it, as opposed to simply intending, well, a terror attack.
While we wait for all that to be sorted out, a summary of facts, from which we promise to draw absolutely no conclusions.
The first unrelated event occurred shortly after 9:30 AM Eastern in Seaside, New Jersey, where a Marine Corps charity run was to be held on Saturday. An explosive device went off in a trash barrel along the route of the 5K run.
The run’s start had been delayed for other reasons, so fortunately, no runners were near the site of the blast.
Authorities said later that multiple devices had been wired to the device that exploded, but did not go off as they were supposed to. No suspects have been identified at this point; an intensive investigation is ongoing.
The devices in New Jersey were described as pipe bombs. Police are still investigating whether this was a terror incident. Unlike Mayor de Blasio, they haven’t specifically informed us that the act of wiring pipe bombs together and setting one off in a trash barrel along a 5K-run route was intentional. So maybe they’re still reconstructing it as a possible accident. We’ll have to wait and see.
What we won’t be doing is drawing any conclusions before their time about whether a public event sponsored by the Marine Corps was being targeted, or anything of that nature.
In Lower Manhattan, about 8:30 PM, an explosion rocked the area of West 23rd and 6th, creating a loud, window-rattling boom and sending glass and debris flying. A total of 29 people have so far been reported as injured, with one person severely injured.
— Derek (@DTang0426) September 18, 2016
News media have all referred to the location as being in Chelsea. But in a somewhat humorous and perfectly characteristic running theme on Twitter, Manhattanites have been arguing that W. 23rd and 6th is Flatiron, people, so stop saying Chelsea. I’m just putting that out there.
There’s also been a deluge of extraneous nonsense about gelato and Pepe the frog, which I mention for completeness. But the main other thing that happened was that a second explosive device was found four blocks away at W. 27th and 6th. An image of that device — a pressure cooker swathed in duct tape, with wires coming out of it and a cell phone connected to it — has gone viral.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 18, 2016
The urge will be strong, of course, to relate the pressure-cooker device back to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. I can only counsel you not to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in. I think we can agree, of course, that a device like this, in and of itself, does look pretty intentional.
At about the time New Yorkers were processing these events, and streets were closed off and flooded with cops, and residents along 27th were receiving emergency texts on their phones telling them to stay away from their windows, Mayor de Blasio held his press conference to assure everyone that this was an intentional act, but there was no terror threat to the city. The dumpster devices couldn’t be connected to terrorism. The intentional dumpster-explosive incident was also not related to the pipe bombs in New Jersey.
Some time later, reporters near the site of the second device, at 27th and 6th, said they were pushed back by the police, and then heard what sounded like a small explosion. They believed the second device may have been detonated at that time. In the 2 AM hour, NYPD reported that the second device had been safely removed.
St. Cloud, MN
Shortly before 8:15 Central time (9:15 EDT), at Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, at least one attacker in a private security guard uniform began stabbing people in the mall. Initial reports indicated there were two attackers, although I haven’t seen whether the other attacker, if there was one, wore a security guard uniform.
Police were dispatched at 8:15. During the attack, an off-duty law enforcement officer from another jurisdiction, who happened to be in the mall, “confronted and killed” an attacker. The St. Cloud police chief apparently didn’t disclose how that was done, but witnesses reported hearing gunshots from the area of the attack.
There were 8 stabbing victims in all, according to local reporting. The Star-Tribune adds:
St. Cloud police chief William Blair Anderson said…the suspect — who was dressed in a private security uniform — reportedly asked at least one victim whether they were Muslim before assaulting them, and referred to Allah during the attacks.
Chief Anderson indicates that they can’t say yet whether the stabbings were a terror incident. There will be urges to deal with again, given how many times mass stabbings in Europe recently have turned out to be terror incidents. But there could be any number of reasons why someone might start stabbing people while referring to Allah and asking if his targets are Muslims.
Donald Trump was told on Saturday night, in Colorado Springs, about the explosion in New York. He referred to it as a “bomb,” whereupon the mainstream media and all his opponents on social media went high-order. The Hill‘s headline was typical: “Trump quickly calls NY explosion a bomb without confirmation.”
Video: Trump speculating on what is happening in New York tonight pic.twitter.com/yPvMsGbfYq
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) September 18, 2016
Hillary too was briefed on the explosion in New York. She also referred to it as a “bombing,” but no one has gone high-order over that. She castigated Trump for calling the explosive a bomb without confirmation, however.
Hillary Clinton, on her campaign plane, responds to explosion in NYC pic.twitter.com/4tfyUE2vNc
— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) September 18, 2016
The Truth Kings website quickly detected that CNN, in its broadcast of the clip, had edited Clinton’s remarks to remove the word “bombings,” and excise the passage in which she seemed to link the events in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota. I advise against drawing hasty conclusions about why that was done. It could be that CNN was trying thriftily to save a few syllables’ worth of air time.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 18, 2016
Hillary’s critics have noted that she didn’t seem to be on her best form in the brief interview with the media Saturday night.
President Obama has reportedly been briefed about the intentional dumpster-explosive event, or as we can now call it, the “bombing.” He will receive additional briefings when there is more to brief.
Attractions in Lower Manhattan
A number of people have pointed out on social media that Chelsea is know for its gay club scene. I am registering here the fact that they’ve said this, while drawing no inferences from it.
In an odd coincidence, the two explosive devices in Chelsea, or Flatiron, were placed within a few blocks of Chelsea Clinton’s apartment, off Madison Avenue on 26th.
If I permitted myself to draw conclusions about that, the conclusion I would draw is that this fact has no meaning whatsoever about the nature or motive of the intentional dumpster-explosive setting. Some people with too much time on their hands are chasing it around social media for no good reason. But I promised I wouldn’t draw conclusions. This is a mere recitation of facts.