Bombs In New York And New Jersey, Stabbing Attacks In Minnesota Stoke Unease

From the Wall Street Journal:
Three violent attacks over the weekend that left almost 40 people injured remained shrouded in questions, but together they fueled growing fears among authorities about terror assaults by small groups, lone wolves or simply deranged individuals.

And even as those were under investigation, a suspicious device found in a trash can near a train station in Elizabeth, N.J., exploded early Monday as a bomb squad was attempting to disarm it with a robot, officials said, according to the Associated Press.

Among the earlier incidents, police said a man dressed as a security guard injured nine people in knife attacks late Saturday at a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minn. He was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer.

Authorities said they were investigating it as a possible terrorist incident.

Islamic State-linked Amaq Agency called the man “a soldier of the Islamic State” who “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”

The man, whom police didn’t identify, made references to Allah and asked at least one victim if he was Muslim. He was identified as Somali-American.

In New York, authorities were searching for a bomb maker who set off a blast near a large trash container on a Manhattan street Saturday evening that left 29 people injured from flying debris, including shrapnel.

Police subsequently found an unexploded bomb four blocks away. Authorities said they had identified a “person of interest” in the bombing they would like to speak to.

Earlier in New Jersey, officials said they didn’t yet know whether a pipe bomb that went off before a charity run at a seashore resort Saturday morning was linked to any terror group. Officials were also trying to determine if the Manhattan bombs and the New Jersey device were made by the same individual or group.

No injuries were reported from the blast at Seaside Park as thousands of runners were set to participate in the benefit for Marines and sailors.

The attacks, coming as world leaders gathered in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, heightened concern that similar assaults could be mounted elsewhere, especially in public places with large crowds that are difficult to protect.

There have been multiple deadly shooting sprees in the U.S. in the past year, some targeting civilians and others aimed at police officers.

A husband-and-wife team in San Bernardino, Calif., who had discussed jihad online, shot and killed 14 people last December at an office party for government workers, while in June, a self-radicalized security guard killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

In July, five police officers were shot during a protest in Dallas, and less that two weeks later, three more were killed in Baton Rouge, La.

Law enforcement and homeland-security officials in the U.S. and Europe have become increasingly worried about attacks by small groups or sole operators—regardless of their affiliation. That has become more acute since terror group Islamic State has found ways to either execute or inspire attacks at soft targets such as restaurants and nightclubs.

While authorities Sunday didn’t link the weekend attacks in New York and New Jersey to Islamic State, “in the course of one day [Saturday] we have potentially three mass casualty attacks that were carried out in this country, and it’s just reflective of how the threat in this country has evolved,” said John Cohen, the former top counterterrorism coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security.

Jessica Stern, a terrorism expert and professor at Boston University, said terrorists have changed their focus since the death of Osama bin Laden and now often work to execute or inspire less sophisticated attacks that are easier to plan and pull off, even if they don’t result in mass casualties.

“The government is worried about this, and it’s hard to stop self-radicalized individuals because there aren’t a lot of communications to intercept,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to carry out a 9/11-style attack now, but it’s in some ways this kind of less sophisticated attack that nearly anyone can carry out is something we can expect going forward.”

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