NEW YORK – The Boston Marathon bombing suspects made an impromptu decision to drive to New York City and detonate their remaining explosives in Times Square, New York City officials said on Thursday.
“Last night, we were informed by the FBI that the surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at an afternoon news conference.
Bloomberg was referring to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was captured on Friday in suburban Watertown, Mass., after an intense manhunt by authorities. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a fierce overnight shootout with police earlier on Friday.
“He told the FBI apparently that he and his brother intended to drive to New York and detonate additional explosives in Times Square,” Bloomberg added. “They had built these additional explosives — and we know that they had the capacity to carry out the attacks.”
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the suspects had a pressure cooker bomb like the two used in the Boston blasts and five pipe bombs that they wanted to set off.
They said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told Boston investigators from his hospital bed that he and his brother had discussed going to New York to detonate their remaining explosives. They said they decided it spontaneously.
“In the car, they made a decision to go to New York with the remaining explosives to detonate in Times Square,” Kelly said.
The brothers’ plan “fell apart,” Kelly said, when they realized that the Mercedes-Benz SUV they had stolen — after fatally shooting MIT security officer Sean Collier — had run out of gas.
The SUV’s owner, who had been driving with the suspects inside, escaped after the suspects forced him to stop at a gas station, Kelly said.
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Both Bloomberg and Kelly said that no evidence existed that New York remained a target by the bombers.
Kelly had said a day earlier that the bombing suspects were targeting New York — coming to the city to “party” after the Boston blasts — but was later briefed by federal officials.
The new information came from a second interview with authorities conducted with Tsarnaev late on Sunday into early Monday, Kelly said.
“He was much more lucid — and he talked more freely,” the police commissioner said.
The first interrogation, in which Tsarnaev talked of the brothers coming to New York to “party” occurred on Saturday night, Kelly said.
“We have reason to believe the second story — not the first story,” Kelly said. “We have an obligation to put that story out.”
Tsarnaev traveled to New York twice last year — in April and November — Kelly said.
Authorities have a photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with friends taken in Times Square sometime before the April visit, Kelly said.
“We don’t know if those visits were related in any way to what he described as the brothers’ spontaneous decision to target Times Square,” Kelly said.
He added that authorities were investigating Tsarnaev’s activities during his New York visits.
“We don’t know if we would have been able to stop the attack,” Bloomberg said, who praised law enforcement for stopping the brothers in the Boston area. “The suspects were stopped before carrying out another attack.”
Kelly added that, had the bombers arrived in Times Square, they would have found “lots of cameras and lots of police officers.”
Bloomberg added: “The attacks in Boston showed how valuable these cameras can be. The fact is New York City remains a prime target of those who hate America and who want to kill Americans.”
Three people were killed and 264 people were injured by the two bombs that struck near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remained in fair condition and under heavy police guard in a Boston hospital on Thursday.