New York shrugs off Islamic State threat in new video

Footage shows suicide bomber and midtown Manhattan, but mayor and police officials urge daily life to continue, saying terror targeting Big Apple is nothing new

A still from an Islamic State video threatening New York released on November 18, 2015. (Screen capture: CNN)
A still from an Islamic State video threatening New York released on November 18, 2015. (Screen capture: CNN)

New York police said Wednesday they were aware of a new Islamic State video targeting the city but stressed that there was “no current or specific threat.”

As the video emerged just days after the deadly terror attacks in Paris, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that “stoking fear is the goal of terrorist organizations, but New York City will not be intimidated.”

“We will not submit to their wishes,” de Blasio vowed.

“There is no specific and credible threat against New York City. So it’s crucial that people go about their normal business,” de Blasio told reporters beneath Times Square’s bright lights.

He said that the NYPD was “providing extraordinary protection” with 35,000 members.

The IS video shows a bomb and a purported suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt, as well as a crowded street in Midtown Manhattan.

The video was released Wednesday, just a week before the city goes into full holiday mode with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center. These and other events attract tens of millions of visitors each year.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the video itself was “nothing new.”

“It is a mishmash of previously released video. We believe it’s a compilation of videos going back to one in August that was directed against Germany, one in October directed against Israel, and 19 seconds of about a five-and-a-half minute video released today had scenes of New York,” he said.

“In New York we understand that we are a terrorist target,” Bratton said.

“But do not be afraid. The NYPD will protect you,” Bratton said. “We will not be intimidated, and we will not live in fear.”

The New York Police Department has deployed additional officers from its counterterror units in the city, CNN reported.

NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said “the video reaffirms the message that New York City remains a top terrorist target.”

“While there is no current or specific threat to the city at this time, we will remain at a heightened state of vigilance and will continue to work with the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the entire intelligence community to keep the City of New York safe,” a police statement read.

De Blasio praised the NYPD as the most capable police force in the country, “with a robust counterterrorism operation that was just strengthened with an investment of 500 additional officers.”

“While Times Square and Herald Square appear in the video, the NYPD in conjunction with all of our partners are taking all necessary security precautions in these areas and areas across the City,” the mayor said.

“New Yorkers won’t live in fear and people should continue to go to work, live their lives, and enjoy the greatest city in the world,” he added.

Governer Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that after the attacks in Paris he directed state agencies to “enhance their preparedness.”

“Remember that the terrorists’ goal is to let fear win – New Yorkers never have, and we never will,” he said.

Videos such as the one released on Wednesday are common. Another IS video this week also threatened an attack on Washington, DC.

A video targeting New York was also produced by IS in April, according to NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism John Miller.

“This is an old video that was kind of rehashed,” he told CNN. “This is ISIS doing what ISIS and al-Qaeda and terrorist groups do, which is propaganda,” he said, using a common acronym for IS.

“When we see the video, we make note of it, but it’s like a lot of videos we’ve seen,” Miller said.

On Monday, de Blasio told the first 120 members of a new 500-officer-strong counterterror unit that the city “is the chief terror target in the country,” and daily vigilance is needed.

The New York Police Department’s counterterror units can now respond to as many as two dozen active shooting situations at once, having learned from such tragedies as the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008, officials said. Intelligence officials also monitor social media postings, and detectives press informants for information on possible plots.

Almost 15 years after the attacks on the Twin Towers killed thousands, residents of the city have admitted to being attuned to the terror threat following the Paris attacks, but have said they plan on going about their daily lives.

“Maybe I’m more jittery,” said Jordan Veneman, sitting at La Colombe cafe in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood earlier in the week. He said that when a car backfired shortly after the attacks in France, he immediately thought of a bomb.

“For me, after 9/11, I live with this duality,” said Andreas Petrossiants, a New York University student sipping a coffee outside Greenwich Village’s Third Rail Coffee. “I want more protections, but I don’t want them to infringe upon me.”

“You can’t monitor every restaurant in NYC or every subway car; it would be a police state,” said Andrew Davies, an actor and model, noting that there are thousands of potential “soft targets” in the city such as the coffee shop where he sat. He said allowing terrorists to restrict our freedom is “almost as bad as a terrorist attack.”

AP contributed to this report.

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