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Times Square bomber joins the growing list of inept terrorists

Like the Christmas Day 'underwear bomber,' the Times Square bomber apparently bungled the job. The 9/11 attacks might have led to a false sense of terrorists' competence.

By Staff writer / May 4, 2010

An image of terror suspect Faisal Shahzad is seen on a TV screen as US Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Deputy Director of the FBI John Pistole, and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (among others) hold a briefing regarding the investigation into the Times Square attempted bombing in Washington Tuesday.




Have Al Qaeda and associated Islamist terror groups become incompetent?

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After all, the car bomb used in Saturday’s failed Times Square attack was a fizzle. FBI Deputy Director John Pistole on Tuesday said the bomb “does not appear to us to be the most sophisticated device.”

Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born US citizen arrested and charged with the attempted attack, appears to have had little real training in explosives technique, according to US officials. And the Times Square bungle was preceded by the Christmas Day incident in which a Muslim Nigerian man on a Northwest Airlines flight tried, and failed, to ignite plastic explosives sewn into his underwear.

IN PICTURES: American Jihadis

Are these twin flops evidence of systemic ineptitude? Perhaps. But it is at least as likely that they show Al Qaeda and its allies have moved towards a new, more decentralized, method of targeting the US and other Western nations.

A new terrorist model

“The new terrorist model might be lightly trained individuals deployed as quickly as possible in hopes they succeed,” says Juan Zarate, senior adviser at the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Despite the apparent low quality of the bombing equipment, the Times Square bomber presented a clear and present danger to the people of New York, according to law enforcement officials.

“He clearly had the intent to do harm,” said Pistole at a Tuesday afternoon Justice Department press conference.

The Times Square plot was a serious attempt to sow death and destruction on New York’s streets, said Attorney General Eric Holder. The reality is that there are many terrorists in the world who wish the US ill, said Holder. The nation should not forget that, even as months and years pass without a successful attack.

“The most dangerous impression we can draw is that this threat no longer exists,” said the attorney general.