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Observations on the NYC Transit Authority Terror Bombing Attack

December 11, 2017

Spectrum News NY1

Photo Credit: Spectrum News NY1 11DEC17

By Mike Keleher
On December 11, 2017 apparently Brooklyn resident Akayed Ullah, age 27, set off a low yield explosive device in a New York City subway passageway just before 7:30 a.m. during morning rush hour. Three other people were injured. In a rather unique move, within an hour of the detonation, local authorities were already telling the press it was an attempted terrorist incident and said Ullah was inspired by ISIS but did not have direct contact with ISIS.

In the counter terrorism world, this is notable as a huge amount of information being provided up front to the public. Bravo to the Governor, Mayor, Police and Fire Chiefs for putting the information out. We have watched cautious public reports over the last few years coming in piecemeal, while everyone watching had already concluded the incidents were terror inspired.

A lot of reporting on major events like terrorism is just plain wrong. Media outlets publish half-cocked information or info from “experts” who are not in the field any longer, to a public ravenous for information. Those early days of misinformation and wrong-headed expert opinions are never re-addressed with the real truth comes out. If you watch a lot of terror and active shooting news you may feel those reporters and talking heads have as much credibility as weathermen – Oh the forecast was wrong? So sorry.

By establishing from the beginning this is a terrorism event and providing actual details instead of “investigation continues” it provides those of us watching with some assurance the authorities know what they are doing, are not hiding information or working a spin on the event.

We will hear more information in coming days about the suspect, device and background, but reviewing today’s facts there are some observations to be made, like why NYC, and why now?

With the declaration this suspect was ISIS inspired, this person is striking in the name of that organization and any day is as good as another. The point of terrorism is to instill fear in the public and unrest with seated governments. No terrorism campaign on its own has ever toppled a government. What Ullah did accomplish with a bomb detonation in the crowded NYC subway transit system, is it guarantees international headlines. Even when the suspect likely self-detonated by accident with only three other people harmed, it is still able to instill fear and garner those headlines no matter the season.
A full detonation inside a packed subway car or platform could have brought about many more victims. He did pick rush hour to bring the device, and every commuter will have to think about this event for a long time. You can’t walk by the World Trade Towers, or enter the Pentagon without thinking of those bad guys and prior bad acts in 2001.

Hurrah for poorly made bombs and clumsy bombers! This device wasn’t even potent enough to blow the potential suicide bomber into his next life-he survived with burns. It is always good to hear when bombers blow themselves up by accident. It happens on a regular basis. Thank goodness, he was not better at the tradecraft of being a bomb maker and suicide bomber. His bid for glory and martyrdom failed in those areas.

Why New York City? The Big Apple remains a significant symbol in the terror world as the bright shining example of American civilization and a representation of “the new world.” It has been the site of symbolic attacks and public prosecutions of terrorists from around the globe. You get automatic headlines with NYC, and the sheer density of people can translate into higher body counts.

On our side of the coin, New York City has more law enforcement assets and technology on hand than any other city in the U.S. NYPD, FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force comprise thousands of bodies to prevent, respond and apprehend subjects. NYC is also home to intense “see something/say something” campaigns and has many more eyes and ears to bring the news to local authorities. A lot of information on the suspect and his motivation will be displayed in coming days and there are always people who saw the bad guys preparing and boiling up to make an attack.

What else can you learn from this attack? Of the three victims injured at the scene all three self-evacuated to local hospitals for treatment. Granted their injuries must not have been too serious, it is still interesting to see they chose to go instead of wait for emergency responders.

In the big city emergency help is plentiful and minutes away-not like rural America. Choosing to use First Aid with direct pressure and covering wounds or burns remains your first and best response. Get out of the area if possible. Decisions about self-transport come second. With modern emergency practices the self-applied tourniquet has come back into vogue to stem major bleeding with lessened chance of amputation since victims will be seen and treated rapidly.

With more sophisticated attacks, additional bombs may be present and some can be deliberately set for delay with the goal of injuring first responders and people rushing to the scene. Get several hundred yards away from any bomb detonation if possible.

With a large bomb detonation, many people can be injured up to hundreds of yards away from shrapnel and more likely by shredded glass fragments. We instinctively look towards the sound of an explosion. Teach yourself to consciously look down at the ground or cover your eyes for a few seconds in the wake of an explosion to avoid flying glass shards. Tough to overcome natural reactions, but it is a teachable response. Shotgun bird hunters in public areas learn to go eyes down or eyes away when they hear nearby blasts to avoid pellets which may rain down for several seconds.

You should also have a family plan for evacuation from any location. They need to be willing to follow orders. You don’t have to discuss it as you move from place to place, but you need to have someone who can announce a hasty plan. “Meet me at the car” or “Get under the table and stay there.” Directions need to be provided to people in your presence in a terror event, active shooting or even minor disturbance which could branch out in your direction.

People under stress don’t think well, and they will struggle with making sense of things first and choosing courses of action second which lead to dynamic inaction when seconds are critical.

Providing direction makes it easier for people under stress to comply, we move away from pain and stress. With fewer decisions to make, there is less panic or inaction. Tell them to Move Now! This is especially important if you are a concealed carrier. You have the ability to defend yourself and others, but how you proceed is obviously impacted by the condition of your flock. If they are panicked or injured, your ability to help can become nebulous.


2 Responses to Observations on the NYC Transit Authority Terror Bombing Attack

  1. Freeillinois on December 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    This is a good article with good info

  2. JM on December 12, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Mr. Keleher's writings are proving to be a good addition to GSL.com.