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NYPD ramps up police presence after threatening Internet messages

A New York City Police Department Hercules team

A New York City Police Department Hercules team does a show of force in Times Square on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

The NYPD has stepped up security and its presence around Times Square and across the city as it evaluates new Internet threats purported to come from the Islamic State group and prepares for the UN General Assembly meeting, officials said Wednesday.

Recent social media and Internet postings attributed to the Islamic State militant group that encourage attacks and give bomb-making instructions have raised concern among local and federal law enforcement officials, said John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence.

"What it is calling on is lone wolves to take instructions and carry out individual" attacks, Miller said after he and Commissioner William Bratton briefed Jewish clergy and community leaders Wednesday on security measures before the High Holy Days.

Bratton reiterated earlier comments that there is no "direct actionable intelligence in our possession" that would lead the NYPD to believe an attack was likely in the city.

The public should still expect to see more security, particularly in Manhattan, before the UN General Assembly meets next week, Bratton said.

Miller said the stepped-up law enforcement presence in light of the threatening Internet messages will also be noticeable in Times Square, the site of a failed May 2010 attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a car bomb.

"Today you would likely see a higher police presence in and around Times Square, in and around mass transit, in and around other targets while we assess this information," Miller said. " . . . Times Square has certainly been a target in the past."

The increase of visible NYPD units was not limited to city streets Wednesday.

NYPD harbor units patrolled near the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Officers with rifles were at checkpoints near police headquarters.

In connection with the UN meetings, police officials said they will be giving greater security attention to heads of state and foreign delegations from countries where there are continuing conflicts. Officials wouldn't name those countries but Syria and Iraq, two places where the Islamic State group has seized territory, and Israel, which has recently battled militants in Gaza, are sending delegations. Russian and Ukrainian representatives will also attend.

The fast climb of The Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, to its status as a global terror threat surprised the United States, said Jerome Hauer, New York State's commissioner for homeland security and emergency services, during the briefing for Jewish leaders.

Hauer told the leaders that attacks by lone assailants inspired by the Islamic State are more of a threat to the United States than the militant group itself. Jewish leaders need to keep watch in their communities to spot potential trouble and work with local NYPD precincts, he said.

Hauer warned that anti-Semitism and attacks against the Muslim community in the city, which NYPD officials said have increased since the start of the Gaza conflict in July, will probably continue as the situation in parts of the Middle East remains unsettled.

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