Grenade Blasts at British Embassy in New York

Two toy grenades filled with gunpowder exploded in the early morning hours at the British embassy in New York City.

2 Blasts at British Consulate in N.Y.C. (AP)

Two small makeshift grenades exploded outside a building housing the British Consulate early Thursday, Election Day in England, causing slight damage but injuring no one, officials said. The blasts happened at 3:35 a.m.
The grenades had been placed inside a cement flower box outside the front door of the midtown Manhattan building, police spokesman Noel Waters said. “We do not at this point have any idea who did it or a motive,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The consulate is on the 9th and 10th floors of the building, the mayor said. He said he expected it would be open for business later in the day. After piecing together the shrapnel, police determined the devices were toy grenades that had been filled with gunpowder. Officers estimated that one was the size of a pineapple; the other the size of a lemon. No timing device was used, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

While the timing seems to indicate that this is somehow related to today’s UK elections, the nature of the devices would seem to point away from terrorists or professionals.

Update: Reactions around the blogosphere:

    Michelle Malkin doesn’t want to speculate on who was behind this but says it was “clearly meant to terrorize or worse. And we can’t ignore the very real possibility that it was a dry run.” Agreed.

    Jim Geraghy thinks this is the work of Islamc terrorists or at least something more organized than “just some nut.”

    John Little finds it “troubling.”

    Rusty Shackleford concurs with my preliminary analysis that this is an amateur operation.

It’s all just speculation at this point, of course.

(1001): Reuters has a much more extensive story, including background on terrorist threats made prior to the election. The FBI Counterterrorism people are investigating, as well they should, but officials are all stressing that we simply don’t know who did this or what their motives were.

(1003): Malkin added an update clarifying her position, which has been noted above.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    The IRA has traditionally done more “nonlethal” (and less lethal) terrorism than al Qaeda has. They were often into quaint things like bombing buildings at night when they were mostly empty, phoning in warnings and suchlike. al Qaeda has always been about maximizing casualties.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Certainly true. The IRA has done a lot of targetted killing of government officials but has always taken care to minimize innocent casualties. Pre-al Qaeda, most terrorist groups understood that killing a lot of civilians quickly delegitimated their cause.

  3. kenny says:

    “The IRA has done a lot of targetted killing of government officials but has always taken care to minimize innocent casualties.”

    Tell that to the families of the victims of the birmingham bombings,enniskillen,brighton,warrington or any of the 516 civilans killed by the IRA over the last 30 years or so.

  4. dw says:

    Ms. Malkin’s knee-jerkness is really amusing.

    “I went to the deli the other day, and this Middle Eastern looking guy farted. I can’t ignore the very real possibility that it was a dry run for a chemical attack on the US.”

  5. Matt Sharkey says:

    Come on. This reeks of child’s play. They were apparently toy grenades. What is a toy grenade? I’ve never even seen a toy grenade. I’ve played with lots of toy guns, but a grenade isn’t much of a toy. This must be a new product, that only a young person would know about. Filling up a plastic toy with gunpowder doesn’t even make an explosive device that will hurt you if you stand next to it. A passerby would have been burned and thrown down, but not torn apart. Even if these devices had adequate timers that would set them off when the morning rush was coming by, no one would really have been hurt. Gunpowder is not an explosive that detonates. It burns, and only explodes when it is contained under pressure or subjected to a primary detonator. A terrorist would have used a material that detonates with a shock wave,and would have contained it under pressure. Also, even that looser in Atlanta put nails and screws around his bombs as shrapnel. Gunpowder is available to any kid in New York whose father hunts and has a shotgun shell reloader. These were childrens’ toys set off with model rocketry fuses I bet. New York has way bigger problems to worry about. How many people were raped and murdered in that city two nights ago? We could use some extra cops down here in DC and Baltimore if they have cops to spare in NYC to look around for kids with access to gunpowder and toy grenades.

  6. jfdunphy says:

    There are some technical issues worth considering here. In Ireland, in an unrelated previous incident, some explosive devices were traced back to supplies originally held by the IRA, but subsequently entirely in the custody of the UK military. Therefore there was the strong suspicion that UK military agents provacateurs were behind attempted explosive devices. If there is a competent investigation into the chemical composition of the powder, fully disclosed for peer review, then an interesting question is: what lot did it come from.
    Second interesting question: remember when chemical companies opposed mandatory addition of chemical taggants into potential explosives, including fertilizers? Wouldn’t that seem to be a reasonable precaution in areas of high threat of use of explosive devices?
    The use of plastic is interesting, in that it means that someone probably was trying to avoid detection by using plastic rather than metal–but then possibly adding the powder later–kind of like a binary weapon. Suspects in Iraq are being examined for traces of explosives or weapons on their hands–but one of the problems is that anyone who handles a farm tool or power tool also has metal on their hand–so you still can’t really distinguish terrorist from the crew of This Old House.
    This report raises more questions than it answers. If it is British provacateurs trying to falsely blame Irish nationalists, then they are committing a crime on US soil–and owe an apology to Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Pataki, and the NYC bomb squad–which shouldn’t have to waste it’s time on false alarms. Note that the very next day, there was no follow-up news concerning a continuing investigation into the facts of the case. This deserves a rigourous follow-up.
    Especially in the light of a report in the May 4, 2005 Irish Echo by Ray O’Hanlon of a link between an executive of a private security firm in Iraq with $293 in defence contracts and a executive suspected of human rights abuses, who was a former UK regiment commander in Belfast. There has long been a controversy over allegations of “shoot-to-kill” orders against Catholics. This little incident comes close on the heels of the report by the Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction.