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New Yorkers Walk Past Political Bluster Over Bombing

The explosives going off in the dumpster in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea was not a major terrorist event — except on the TV news channels. No one was killed, fortunately. And thanks to superb police work, a suspect was captured within 48 hours.

On the night after, Sunday, trains from the northern suburbs were packed with young people returning to town for the workweek. They found a Grand Central Terminal patrolled by police and military personnel in fatigues — which had been the case when they left town. Were there more guards after the bombing the night before? Perhaps.

All the panic was on the television news channels, fanned to a great extent by Donald Trump and surrogates. Their bit is to blame the Obama administration for not having wiped out every Islamic State operative and sympathizer in the Mideast. How Trump would do that has yet to leave the realm of fantasy — and you wonder where he’s going to find enough young Americans to ship overseas to perform mission Trump.

In the real world, the Islamic State group has been losing territory, and that humiliation is why its terrorists are striking out at Europe and elsewhere in the West. They need to maintain the illusion of power. Horrifying attacks on innocents abroad are how they keep their story going.

And Trump is their storyteller in chief, pumping up these miscreants as supermen to be feared. That might sell on national TV, but not to New Yorkers.

They are apparently more fearful of the chaos — economically and securitywise — that a Trump presidency could unleash than of a few terrorists or other crackpots rigging pressure cookers to go off. And over the same weekend, it was noted, a knife-wielding fanatic stabbed mall-goers in Minnesota.

George Metesky, the infamous Mad Bomber, terrified the city for 16 years in the ’40s and ’50s, planting bombs in libraries, train stations, the subway and the RCA Building. He was apparently angry with the electric company.

No one can make us totally safe, but cutting down to size the terrorist tales of invincibility and claims of being Islam’s defenders is a step in the right direction. Rather than feed into the terrorists’ story, the Obama administration is trying to deflate it.

It’s a “bankrupt, false narrative,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said after the explosions in New York. “It’s a mythology, and we have made progress in debunking that mythology.”

In New York City polls, Clinton thrashes Trump by a margin of 63 to 20 percent — and it’s not because the people don’t worry about terrorist attacks. They know they are the center of the bull’s-eye but fear having the country run by a man they see as a dangerous clown. Sophistication, not bluster, is the sharpest sword.

The brilliant (now-former) New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said last month that he has full confidence in the NYPD to handle terrorism. Trump, he said, “scares the hell out me.” He went on: “The lack of depth on issues, the ‘shoot from the hip’ … I just shake my head.”

As for Clinton immediately after the bombings, she called for patience as the details of the case unfolded. Her words were wise, though not made for cable television against backdrop images of flashing police lights.

Better was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s simple response: “Whoever placed these bombs — we will find and they will be brought to justice. Period. … We will not allow these type of people and these type of threats to disrupt our life in New York.”

And all indications are — given the week’s traffic jams — that they haven’t.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached atfharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (L) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (R)  tour the site of an explosion that occurred on Saturday night in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, USA,September 18, 2016. REUTERS/Justin Lane/Pool

After Bomb Blasts, Clinton Charges Trump Helps Islamic State To Recruit

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday accused Republican rival Donald Trump of helping Islamic State militants recruit more fighters as bomb blasts in New York and New Jersey made national security a top concern on the U.S. presidential campaign trail.

Trump, meanwhile, said Clinton’s “weakness” while Democratic President Barack Obama’s secretary of state had emboldened terrorists worldwide to attack the United States.

Both candidates tried to use the attacks to flex their national security credentials, with world leaders gathering in security-heightened New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Clinton said Trump’s rhetoric against what he calls “radical Islamic terrorism” is helping Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS.

“We know that a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS, because they are looking to make this into a war against Islam rather than a war against jihadists,” she told reporters in White Plains, New York.

The Trump campaign responded by saying Clinton bears some responsibility for the violence by not persuading Obama to leave a residual force of U.S. troops in Iraq when she was his secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Obama and the Iraqi government failed to reach agreement at the end of 2011 on extending a U.S.-Iraqi status of forces agreement, and most American troops were withdrawn.

Trump has sought to tie Clinton to the decisions of the Obama administration.

“Hillary Clinton’s weakness while she was secretary of state has emboldened terrorists all over the world to attack the U.S., even on our own soil. They are hoping and praying that Hillary Clinton becomes president so that they can continue their savagery and murder,” Trump said on Facebook. He did not give specifics.

The campaigns weighed in after the weekend of bomb incidents and multiple stabbings in central Minnesota as the Nov. 8 election loomed closer.

In the most serious incident, a bomb went off in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday, injuring 29 people; an unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found nearby. Earlier that day, a pipe bomb went off in Seaside Park, New Jersey, further south of the city.

On Sunday night, as many as six explosive devices were found by a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, just west of New York.

On Monday, an Afghanistan-born American suspected in some of the incidents was arrested in nearby Linden, New Jersey, after a gun battle with police. Authorities had said earlier they wanted to question Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, about the Chelsea and Seaside Park bombings.

The incidents, just days after the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, put the United States’ most populous city on edge.

In central Minnesota, a man stabbed nine people at a mall on Saturday before being shot dead by an off-duty policeman. On Sunday, Islamic State claimed responsibility, calling the man “a soldier.” The FBI said it was investigating the attack as a potential act of terrorism. Reuters could not verify the claim of responsibility.

Trump throughout much of the last year has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

On Aug. 31, Trump said, that, if elected, he would suspend immigration from “places like Syria and Libya” and would order a list of regions and countries be drawn up from which “immigration must be suspended until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.”

At a speech in Philadelphia on Monday, Clinton called for vigilance.

“This is a fast-moving situation and a sobering reminder that we need steady leadership in a dangerous world,” she said.

The renewed focus on terrorism came as Clinton and Trump prepared for their first debate next Monday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, east of the city.

With world leaders gathered in New York for the U.N. conclave, Clinton was expected to meet leaders of Japan, Egypt and Ukraine later on Monday while Trump was expected to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A U.S.-led coalition has been fighting ISIS mainly through air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Trump, who has based much of his campaign message on arguing that the United States is no longer safe and that he alone can protect the nation, told Fox News on Monday morning that he expects more attacks.

“I think this is something that maybe will … happen more and more all over the country,” Trump told Fox News.

Asked if he was saying there would be more attacks, he replied, “Yeah, because we’ve been weak. Our country’s been weak.”

(Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Alana Wise and Emily Stephenson in Washington, writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the media before boarding her campaign plane at the Westchester County airport in White Plains, New York, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Bomb Suspect Rahami In Police Custody In New Jersey: Media Reports

This post was updated on at 12:32 PM.

By Joseph Ax and Mica Rosenberg

ELIZABETH, N.J. (Reuters) – An Afghanistan-born American sought in connection with a series of bombings that wounded 29 people in the New York City area over the weekend was in custody after a gun battle with police on Monday, a New Jersey mayor said.

Ahmad Khan Rahami of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was captured after firing at police officers in Linden, New Jersey, about 20 miles (32 km) outside New York, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said. Two officers were shot, one in the hand and the other in a bullet-proof vest, he said.

“Mr. Rahami also sustained shots and an ambulance has taken him away,” Bollwage said.

Video from WABC television showed a conscious man described as Rahami on a gurney and being loaded into an ambulance.

Investigators believe more people were involved in the New York and New Jersey bombing plots, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

Earlier on Monday, New York Police had released a photo of Rahami, 28, and said they wanted to question him about a Saturday night explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and for a blast earlier that day in Seaside Park, New Jersey, authorities said.

In addition to the two incidents, officials are probing a backpack containing bombs found in a New Jersey train station on Sunday, and an unexploded pressure-cooker bomb located blocks away from the Chelsea blast site.

No one was injured in the other blasts.

As reports of Rahami being taken in custody were being released, U.S. President Barack Obama said he saw no connection between the explosions and a separate weekend incident where a man stabbed nine people at a mall in central Minnesota before being shot dead.

He said authorities are investigating the stabbing as a potential act of terrorism.

The man in the Minnesota incident was described a “soldier of the Islamic State,” the militant group’s news agency said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in Elizabeth, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Alan Crosby)

Photo: Police officers walk near the area where an explosive device left at a train station was detonated by the authorities in Elizabeth, New Jersey, U.S., September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz