Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

The Broadway Bomber's Rough Opening

If the bomb pulled together by Faisal Shahzad had gone off, the explosion, lasting only a few seconds, would have created a thermal ball wide enough to swallow up most of the Times Square intersection where he had parked his car on May 1. A blast wave would have rocketed out in all directions, and anyone standing within five city blocks of the explosion would have been at risk of being hit by shrapnel and millions of shards of flying glass. No one knows how many would have died. Fortunately, Shahzad was an inept bombmaker; though it ignited, the mixture he used failed to ignite the series of explosive devices he had stuffed into his Nissan Pathfinder, which was suspiciously parked in a no-parking zone. Street vendors saw the smoke from the car and alerted a mounted police officer. Shahzad was tracked down and arrested after the flight to Dubai he had boarded was ordered to taxi back to the airport. The Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, who said he had been to a terrorist training camp in his native country's volatile Waziristan region, pleaded guilty to several charges and was sentenced to life in prison. His case, however, raised questions about the susceptibility of young Muslims to radicalization by way of the preachings of the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.