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Explosion at Times Square recruiting station; Update: Bloomberg blasts the blast; Update: Security video released; Update: House Dems received letters, photo of recruitment center; Fox reports maybe more than 8 received letters; AP says manifesto was anti-Iraq war screed, "Happy New Year, We did it;" Newsday: At least 10 got the package

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 6, 2008 07:40 AM

Scroll down for updates…Bloomberg weighs in: “The fact that this appears deliberately targeted at the recruiting station insults every one of our brave men and women in uniform stationed around the world.” …Politico reports that 8 Democrats in the House received letters and a photo of the targeted Times Square recruitment center…the Dems were NY representatives…Fox reports possibly more than 8 received letter; AP reports letter contained anti-Iraq war screed and gloating about the bombing, “We did it.”

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Photo: Yahoo! News.

It has been happening for years–the targeting of military recruiting stations. It happened again this morning:

An explosive device caused minor damage to an empty military recruiting station in Times Square early Thursday, shaking guests in hotel rooms high above.

Police blocked off the area to investigate the explosion, which occurred at about 3:45 a.m., shattering the station’s glass entryway. No one was injured.

“If it is something that’s directed toward American troops than it’s something that’s taken very seriously and is pretty unfortunate,” said Army Capt. Charlie Jaquillard, who is the commander of Army recruiting in Manhattan.

He said no one was inside the station, where the Marines, Air Force and Navy also recruit.

Witnesses staying at a Marriott hotel four blocks away said they could feel the building shake with the blast.

“I was up on the 44th floor and I could feel it. It was a big bang,” said Darla Peck, 25, of Portland, Oregon.

“It shook the building. I thought it could have been thunder, but I looked down and there was a massive plume of smoke so I knew it was an explosion,” said Terry Leighton, 48, of London, who was staying on the 21st floor of the Marriot.

Members of the police department’s bomb squad and fire officials gathered outside the station in the early morning darkness, and police cars and yellow tape blocked drivers — most of them behind the wheels of taxicabs — from entering one of the world’s busiest crossroads. Police began allowing some traffic through around the start of rush hour.

Though subway cars passed through the Times Square station without stopping in the early hours of the investigation, normal service was soon restored, with some delays.

The recruiting station, located on a traffic island surrounded by Broadway theaters and chain restaurants, has occasionally been the site of anti-war demonstrations, ranging from silent vigils to loud rallies.

Ed’s got more. Here’s the NYT blog coverage.

Reader Laura e-mails:

Just up checking your blog and watching ABC’s GMA (a rarity for me).

Their coverage of the Times Square bombing of a military recruiting office just now (7am) barely made mention of WHAT was actually bombed. Dianne Sawyer went out of her way, it seemed to me, NOT to ask about WHAT was bombed. They went on and on about a “man on a bike” and the bomb itself (I’m a journalist and believe me, it was the worst report I’ve ever seen) but NOTHING about the target.

Their conflicted-ness was so apparent…here is a bomb, felt by people in their own studio when it went off, so they are shaken, yet only ONE reference, buried in the middle of the report to the recruiting station that was trashed. They also made an attempt, imo, to link this with the bombing of the British and Mexican consulates.

The NYPost:

The center is normally staffed by two noncommissioned officers but was empty at the time of the explosion, said Capt. Charlie Jaquillard, the commander of army recruiting operations in Manhattan.

“If it is something that is directed toward American troops, then it’s something that’s taken very seriously and is pretty unfortunate,” he said.

Members of the police department’s bomb squad and fire officials gathered outside the recruiting station, which has occasionally been the site of anti-war demonstrations, ranging from silent vigils to loud rallies.

Police cars and yellow tape initially blocked drivers from entering one of the world’s busiest crossroads, though some traffic was allowed through around the start of rush hour.

Guests at the Marriott Marquis on 46th Street said they heard a “big bang” and could feel the building shake. A large plume of smoke was also visible after the explosion, they said.

Terry Leighton, 49, from London, England, said he was on the 21st floor of the hotel when he heard the blast and looked out a window.

“I thought it could have been thunder,” he said. “I looked down and there was a massive plume of smoke. So I knew it was an explosion.”

Darla Teck, 25, was on the 44th floor of the hotel. “There was a big bang. I felt it,” she said.

***

Yesterday: Phony draft card-burning.

***

Update: NYC Mayor Bloomberg weighs in: “The fact that this appears deliberately targeted at the recruiting station insults every one of our brave men and women in uniform stationed around the world.”

Update: Bob Owens concludes, “This was an act of domestic terrorism.”

Update 2:04pm Eastern. NYPD has released security video in Times Square showing the man on the bike immediately before the explosion. A 10-speed bike has also been found in the vicinity.

Update 2:44pm Eastern. Allah’s posted the surveillance video.

Update 7:52pm Eastern. Politico reports that 8 Democrats in the House received letters and a photo of the targeted Times Square recruitment center…the Dems were NY representatives…

Fox reporting more than 8 House Democrats may have received letters and photo of the recruitment station, with an anti-Iraq war screed proclaiming, “Happy New Year, We did it.”

Capitol Hill postmaster and FBI investigating whether any Senate offices received the mailing.

More on the letter:

The Associated Press obtained a copy of an e-mail from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to other lawmakers Thursday that reads:

“A few offices on the House side have received a letter today addressed to ‘Members of Congress’ with a picture of a man standing in front of the Times Square recruiting station that was bombed in New York today with the statement ‘We did it.’ He is standing in front of it with his arms spread out and he’s attached his political manifesto.”

The e-mail says the recipients were told to leave the letters alone and call police.

Update 9:39pm Eastern. Newsday has a few more details…

In an e-mail Thursday night, U.S. Capitol Police advised all members of Congress to be on the lookout for a 5 by 8 inch manila envelope with two $1 stamps on it that might contain the letter, which the e-mail said has been screened and poses no harm to the lawmakers.

The letters added a new dimension to the blast with an improvised explosive device made from army surplus materials at the recuitment station that caused minor damage but no injuries.

Aides to Long Island members of Congress said they had not gotten one of the letters taking credit for the blast.

The photo in the letter was the kind commonly sent as a holiday greeting card, showing a white man with thin graying hair in a striped flannel shirt and jeans, the Associated Press said, quoting an unnamed Democratic aide whose office received the letter. The card said: “Happy New Year. We Did It.”

Capitol Hill police, the FBI and postal inspectors are investigating the letters.

“Within the past twenty-four hours, a number of letters have begun arriving at various Congressional Offices on Capitol Hill,” the Capitol Police e-mail says. “The letters contain a reference to the military recruiting office in New York City.”

Authorities have not disclosed the content of the lengthy letters, said by sources to be between 10 and 30 pages long, that arrived in the office

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