New York police doubled patrols of the subway system and sent a battery of police cars to transit hubs as a precaution on Monday following the Moscow subway bombings.
In Washington, police sent bomb-sniffing dogs to random Metro stations and rail yards as part of heightened security associated with the Moscow attacks, in which two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people on packed metro trains during rush hour on Monday.
Though the Moscow bombings appear related to the conflict in the North Caucasus and New York’s greatest threat is seen as coming from al Qaeda, police enacted the same security detail that they roll out after any attack elsewhere in the world.
This time it closely follows one man’s admission he was plotting a suicide bombing of New York subways with al-Qaeda training.
“We don’t have any information suggesting that it’s related [to al Qaeda] but as a precaution we are increasing coverage,” police spokesperson and Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said US security officials regularly focus on issues of security on mass transit with the goal of identifying individuals who want to cause harm before they managed to carry out any attacks.
“It is obviously a significant concern,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News.
“It’s not restricted to subways. The same thing can happen in a bus terminal and if you’ve got somebody who is determined to kill themselves and kill other people with them. That is always a challenge for any government.”
The city’s fleet of “critical response vehicles” that guard sensitive locations were sent to mass transit hubs such as Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, Browne said.
Officers patrolling the subways overnight were kept on duty as the morning shift reported, practically doubling the number of officers.
The city may also send a detective to Moscow, as it often does following similar attacks around the world, Browne said.
The New York Police Department has detectives in 11 foreign cities working to prevent foreign extremists from hitting New York, which has been attacked twice — on September 11 2001, and in a 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Centre.
The New York subway system security came under intense scrutiny after the transit attacks on Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.
On February 22, Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to plotting a suicide bomb attack on New York City subways with al-Qaeda training for what would have been the worst attack on the United States since 2001.
“Whether they are related or not our standard operating procedure is to take precautions until more is known,” Browne said.
Coincidentally on Monday, Washington’s Metro was holding a planned drill simulating a bus explosion in the parking lot of a sports stadium. That coincided with the sweeps of train stations, the locations of which were not being announced in advance.
“When we opened the Metro system this morning, we did so with heightened security,” Metro Transit Police acting chief Jeri Lee said in a statement. “We remain an open system and we do what we can to be as secure as possible.” – Reuters