New York firebomb attacks: Man admits hurling Molotov cocktails

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New York police say a man confessed Tuesday to throwing a Molotov cocktail at an Islamic center and four other locations over the weekend because of personal grievances with each place.

According to the Associated Press, the man, whose name was not released, is facing arson-related charges, but it was unclear whether additional hate-crime charges would be lodged against him, police said.


All five attacks occurred within about two hours Sunday evening.

After examining a surveillance video of a man hurling a fiery bottle Sunday night at a home used as a Hindu place of worship and then driving away, police were able to track the suspect through the type of car and its Virginia license plate.

Authorities were investigating the possibility that the five attacks were hate crimes because they involved places of prayer, including an Islamic cultural center on the Van Wyck Expressway in Jamaica, Queens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials gathered Tuesday morning at the Islamic center to quell concerns about a possible tie between the attacks and religious or cultural hate.

“As I said before, we don’t know what the motive was,” Bloomberg told reporters in a statement aired on NY1. “But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination.”

“Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we’re just not going to tolerate it in this city,” he said.

In four of the five attacks, glass Starbucks bottles were used to make the weapon, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who also spoke to reporters after the meeting Tuesday morning. He noted that, after the first attack on a Queens convenience store, the owner told police that a man was removed from the store last week after trying to steal a container of milk and a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino.

As workers were pushing the man out of the store, Kelly told reporters, “He said words to the effect of, ‘We’re going to get even. We’re going to get back at you.’ ”

Police said the man was initially taken into custody because his car was seen both at the convenience store and on the video.


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-- Geraldine Baum in New York