After Faizal Shahzad was arrested on May 1, 2010, for attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square, Mayor Bloomberg commented, “It’s been said that when you find a terrorist, he’ll have a map of New York City in his back pocket.” A few blocks from Times Square is the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where a pipe bomb explosion occurred at 7.20 a.m. local time on Monday, December 11, 2017, in an underground passage, about 200 feet (60 meters) from the bus terminal.
After the explosion, Port Authority police arrested the alleged suspect, who had wires attached to his body. When the police moved in, the suspect tried to set off the rest of his bomb. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital with burns and lacerations. This was an attempted terrorist suicide bombing, apparently undertaken in the name of ISIS.
It is no accident that the target of this attempted suicide bombing was a mass transport hub in Manhattan. A suicide bomber can only die once. So, the target must be optimal. The alleged suspect could have left the pipe bomb anywhere, and made good his escape by foot. But it appears he planned a martyrdom mission, and the target was carefully chosen. The optimal selection procedure for suicide attacks is a key factor in robust terrorist target modeling.
The alleged suspect has been named as Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi native. ISIS has been active in Bangladesh, so the nationality of the suspect comes as no surprise. Before last week, when President Trump declared U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it might have been surprising for a terrorist to launch a U.S. attack in the name of Palestine, rather than the Jihad. But this would not be surprising now. The Turkish President Erdoğan has called the U.S. a partner in bloodshed. Insurers should remind themselves of the history of Palestinian-motivated terrorism, which includes the attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993.