NEW YORK — There are already so many police deployed to monitor traffic around the United Nations General Assembly this week that pedestrians are forced to walk blocks out of their way to avoid the many checkpoints surrounding the annual gathering of thousands of diplomats, heads of state, journalists, and aid workers at Turtle Bay.
Now there will be even more.
Two weekend bombings and two thwarted attacks in New York and New Jersey put Manhattan on high alert as President Barack Obama and other world leaders prepared to gather for the annual U.N. summit. A dramatic manhunt ended Monday morning in Linden, N.J., with the arrest of Ahmed Khan Rahami, 28, an Afghanistan-born naturalized American citizen.
It’s unclear — at best — whether the attacks had anything to do with the yearly gathering in New York, and authorities remain mum on a motive. Still, hundreds of additional police were sent out on patrol around the city and Port Authority.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said officials have “every reason to believe this was an act of terror.” However, he did not specifically say why: Rahami, who was shot but survived a confrontation with police, was not on any terrorism watch lists and did not have a criminal history, other than one domestic incident that was later recanted, said FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr., who heads the bureau’s New York field office.
Authorities said Rahami does not immediately appear to have any obvious connections to foreign terror organizations, and said they had no reason to believe there was a terror cell operating in New York or its surrounding areas. One senior intelligence official who spoke to FP on a condition of anonymity said investigators are closely examining where and how Rahami is suspected of building the explosive devices.
The attacks began Saturday morning when a trash can exploded at a Marine Corps-sponsored marathon in Seaside Heights, N.J.. That night, a pressure cooker bomb exploded in a dumpster in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29. On Sunday, police detonated a backpack with five bombs that was found outside a restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J.
Rahami was spotted on surveillance video near two of the locations in Manhattan.
In the meantime, De Blasio said there will be “a very strong and visible NYPD presence because of this instance and obviously because of the U.N. General Assembly.” He added that police officers will be stationed in subway stations, bags will be checked, and bomb-sniffing dogs will be on patrol.
“All New Yorkers should remain vigilant,” he said.
At an earlier press conference at a New York hotel Monday, Obama acknowledged the annual summit proceedings “already create an additional workload for New York.”
“But given the U.N. meetings, we also have a particularly high level of federal resources here to help as needed,” he said.
The New York Police Department did not respond to a request for more information about security arrangements surrounding the U.N.
Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images