A former US serviceman, with a criminal record but apparently without terrorist motives, knocked down 23 pedestrians in Times Square Thursday in New York, killing one and several seriously injured in one of the busiest squares in the world.
“Based on the information we have so far, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism”, said the mayor of New York at a press conference on the famous square, obviously anxious to reassure New Yorkers in the context of multiple car-ramming attacks in Europe. “The investigation continues”, he stressed, however, and the authorities “Reinforced the police presence in certain key locations” of this metropolis of 8.5 million inhabitants, he added.
Times Square, with its theaters, shops and huge lighted billboards, is one of the must-see attractions for the tens of millions of tourists who visit America’s economic heartland every year.
The last attack in New York dates back to mid-September 2016, when a young American of Afghan origin placed a mini-bomb in a trash can. The attack left 31 minor injuries.
The incident on Thursday occurred shortly before noon (6 p.m. GMT), as hundreds of people were sunbathing there and lunch breaks began for the many office buildings nearby. A young woman was killed instantly and at least seven of the 22 injured hospitalized are in serious condition, authorities said, without giving any details of their identity or nationality immediately.
Former US Navy
An AFP photographer, who was near the crash site at the crossroads of Broadway and 45th Street, saw the vehicle, a burgundy sedan, speeding into the plaza. “There were people on the ground”, “People who cried”, he said.
The sedan stopped after hitting a sign post and caught fire, but the blaze was quickly brought under control, firefighters said. The driver, arrested after his car struck traffic lights, was identified as Richard Rojas. The mayor clarified that he was a 26-year-old American citizen, residing in the Bronx neighborhood, having been “Member of the US Navy”. He had already been arrested twice, in 2008 and 2015, for driving while intoxicated, and “threats” of an unspecified nature in 2016, detailed the authorities, without saying if he was in a state of intoxication. Thursday morning.
Numerous emergency vehicles – police, ambulance, firefighters – were on the scene, blocking the square and causing traffic jams around this Manhattan hotspot.
In May 2010, the New York police had foiled an attempted attack near Times Square, the most serious alert since the attacks of September 11, 2001. A vehicle bomb containing explosive materials was discovered nearby and a Pakistani immigrant arrested and then sentenced to life imprisonment.
LIBERATION with AFP