Police in New York are investigating whether a car bomb in Times Square was targeted at the makers of the animated television series South Park because of a controversial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.
The device, which failed to detonate, was left near the offices of Viacom, which broadcasts the provocative cartoon on its Comedy Central network. Last month, a posting on the U.S.-based Revolution Muslim website warned the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that they could face violent reprisals after an episode featured Muhammad in a bear suit.
“This vehicle was close to a Viacom building which owns MTV and Comedy Central,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), told CNN. “And you have the whole issue with South Park, which Islamic terrorists were threatening to have retribution for.”
New York police commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Sunday that investigators haven’t ruled out the possibility Viacom, a couple blocks from the car bomb, was a target because of the animated comedy episode. “We certainly wouldn’t rule it out,” Kelly said.
It said the intention had been to avenge the deaths of two “Muslim martyrs” named as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who were killed by U.S. forces in Iraq 12 days ago. The two al-Qaeda operatives were thought to have inspired the Tiger Tiger bombings and to have met Bilal Abdulla, the doctor convicted of the London attack.
It was Broadway’s busiest night of the week and the area was evacuated of thousands of tourists.
Bomb disposal experts used a robot to break the windows of the vehicle and remove explosive material.
The car contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two five-gallon gas cans, two clocks with batteries, electrical wires and a large metal box.
“It appeared that it was in the process of detonating, but malfunctioned,” said Paul Browne, a New York police spokesman.
Ray Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said: “I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire.”