Boston bombing suspects planned NY attack

Updated: 2013-04-26 15:41

By Hu Haidan in New York (China Daily)

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The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings decided after last week's blasts that they would plant their remaining explosives in New York's Times Square, city officials said on Thursday.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, told investigators that he and his brother "decided spontaneously" to drive south to the Manhattan landmark. That was on April 18, three days after two homemade bombs stuffed into backpacks blew up near the marathon finish line in Boston, killing three people and injuring more than 260, many grievously.

"Last night we were informed by the FBI that the surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference.

According to Kelly, the younger Tsarnaev told investigators from his hospital bed in Boston that he and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, had decided to drive to New York and launch an attack with five pipe bombs and a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones that blew up in Boston marathon.

The plan fell apart when the sport-utility vehicle the brothers had hijacked was found to be low on gas. The Tsarnaevs told the driver to pull into a gas station, where he escaped while refueling the car. The two suspects were subsequently caught by police.

Hours later, early on the morning of April 19, the older Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Dzhokhar was found that evening hiding in a boat parked in a Watertown resident's back yard, and arrested. On Monday he was charged with federal crimes and could face the death penalty.

"We don't know if we would have been about to stop the terrorists had they arrived here from Boston," Bloomberg said. "We're just thankful that we didn't have to find out that answer."

Abdul Wahid, who owns a vending cart in Times Square, at the intersection of Broadway and 43rd Street, said he was terrified after hearing the news.

"It's terrible," he said. "I don't feel safe here. I want to move my cart far away from Times Square, but I am afraid of earning less money if I moved."

With some 39 million tourists passing through the "crossroads of the world" each year, Times Square is estimated to be the world's most-visited attraction.

Wahid said he has been selling peanuts, almonds and cashews from his cart in the same location for more than two years. He said the Boston bombings have made people cautious about visiting tourist-packed sites such as Times Square, and his business has suffered.

"Maybe lots of people are worried about their safety," the vendor said. "Instead of going out, they prefer to stay home."

Among those killed in the marathon bombings was Lu Lingzi, 23, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University. Another BU student from China, Zhou Danling, was injured in the bombings and is being treated at Boston Medical Center.

Kelly said there was no evidence that New York City is currently a target of a terror attack stemming from the Boston bombings.

Janet Chase, a retired educator who was visiting Manhattan from Marietta, Ohio, said she wasn't surprised by the suspects' plan.

New York, she said, "has been the target, and probably will be a target in the future. Some of these crazy individuals, they know they can cause a lot of destruction in a small amount of space".

"If it's going to happen, it's going to happen - no matter if it's New York, Boston or even Marietta," said her friend Nancy Ruth.

"You can't let those crazy individuals run your life," Chase said. "Places and people rebound despite all the terror, tragedy and loss. That's America - we keep building back up, and we will continue to do that."

Chinese students interviewed in New York said they felt somewhat scared and unsafe after hearing Thursday's news from the mayor.

Cai Peizhen, who is pursuing a master's degree in applied psychology at New York University, said she would try to avoid crowded places in the city.

"In general, I kind of have faith in the New York police," Cai said. "Especially after 9/11, I believe the police know how to deal with terrorists."

"Every time I think about Lu Lingzi, I feel so sad," said Lan Yiting, an NYU graduate student in human resources. "She was our age, and she was an overseas student just like me."

Lan was stoic, however. "Tragedy happens in life," she said, "but life continues."