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Explosion outside UES Starbucks

May 25, 2009 8:26:45 PM PDT
An explosive device blew out the windows of a Starbucks coffee shop in a blast that rocked an Upper East Side neighborhood. The loud blast was heard at the intersection of Third Avenue and East 92nd Street just before 4 a.m.

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Police are still looking for the person who left the device outside of the store.

The time of day echoed that of a pattern of unsolved early morning blasts that have occurred outside the British Consulate, the Mexican Consulate and the Armed Forces recruiting booth in Times Square over the past two years.

"The similarity is the time," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said. "The Mexican Consulate, the British Consulate, the Times Square bombing event at the recruiting station, we have this event. They all happened between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. That's the immediate similarity we are looking at."

The explosion took place on a bench outside of the store. Authorities say the container was white plastic wrapped in black tape. The explosive material was the same type used in M80 fireworks, and they say there was enough to fill several M80s. The device was rigged with a hobby fuse, like used in a firecracker.

Several people claim to have seen teenagers in the area of the explosion, but nobody saw them actually place the device. One resident who lives above the Starbucks says he saw two boys he described as between 13 and 16 running from the scene just seconds before the explosion.

While a lot of evidence points to teens, nothing has yet ruled out that this is the same suspect wanted in the consulate and Times Square explosions.

The bomb squad, Office of Emergency Management, FDNY and NYPD are investigating.

In the earlier cases with the Times Square bomber, witnesses and surveillance camera footage showed a suspect escaping on a bicycle.

In this incident, no such information was immediately available, but police were canvassing the neighborhood and collecting and reviewing security camera tapes.

"We will be checking cameras in the area. Right now there are no reports of anyone on a bicycle," Kelly said. "We will do a canvas, we will come back and canvas later, back tomorrow morning, see people who may have been in the area. Right now we have no witnesses to the immediate event."

"It was a huge boom, and I was inside and thought it was either a gas explosion or a truck ran into the building," area resident Jackie Klempay said.

The coffee shop was closed at the time of the blast. No injuries were reported.

While the targets in the past blasts suggested a possible political motive to the attacks, the reason for this latest incident was unclear.

"We don't know the motive," Kelly said. "Obviously, it is a cause for concern, but we are going to do an in-depth investigation. Starbucks has been victimized in the past in other cities. So we are looking into that issue as well."


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