New York attack shows limits of counter-terrorism strategy

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NEW YORK Minutes after a man set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of New York's busiest transit hubs, throwing the Monday morning commute into chaos for many, a suspect was in custody, trains were rerouted and throngs of police swarmed the streets.

The massive response exposed the limits of the anti-terrorism force the city has built since the deadly attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

It has learnt to respond quickly and effectively to attacks, but faces an almost impossible task in trying to thwart every threat, particularly the acts of "lone wolves" targeting public places.

Nearly six million people ride New York's subway each day, entering at any one of the system's 472 stations - more stops than any other in the world.

"You can't search everyone entering a subway system, particularly a system the size of the one in New York," said Mr Tom Nolan, a former US Department of Homeland Security analyst who is now a professor of criminology at Merrimack College in Massachusetts.

A network of cameras blankets almost all of New York's subway system, which sprawls over 1,070km of tracks while the New York City Police Department (NYPD) uses radiation detectors to search for "dirty" bombs, which combine a traditional explosive with radioactive material.

The NYPD counterterrorism chief John Miller said that intelligence had stopped at least 26 plots since 2001. But the proliferation of so-called "lone wolf" attackers has made it harder to do so, experts said. - REUTERS