A small bomb damaged an unmanned weather station used by air traffic controllers serving La Guardia Airport, and a note bearing a swastika claimed the blast was in retaliation for the raid on the Branch Davidians, authorities said Saturday.
“There was no threat to aviation safety at any time,” said Anthony Willett, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which investigated the World Trade Center bombing, joined the investigation.
A one-page handwritten note found at the site linked the incident to the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas, in February 1993. “This is in response to the Waco incident, for all our fallen brothers,” the note read. It also carried a scrawled swastika.
The FBI said it was unclear whether the attack was simply vandalism, the work of copycats duplicating the attack on an Amtrak train in Arizona last week or an act of terrorism by a well-trained and highly organized group.
“We are going to take it seriously until we know that we should not take it seriously,” said Joseph Valiquette, a spokesman for the FBI in New York City.
The police were classifying the explosion as a crime of criminal mischief, but Deputy Inspector Robert Martin, head of the Police Department’s special investigations division, said, “We’re giving it some significance because of the timing with the anniversary of the U.N. and, of course, other terrorist acts. We are thinking that this is serious.”
Neither he nor the FBI would say what kind of explosive was used, but the deputy inspector ruled out dynamite, saying, “If it had been dynamite there would have been a big explosion.”
Police said at a news conference that they were giving the investigation added emphasis because of the note and because the vandalism occurred as the United Nations is about to observe its 50th anniversary.
Police Inspector Robert Martin said the site, across a bay from LaGuardia Airport, has been vandalized before.
“We don’t know for a fact that this wasn’t just a routine act of vandalism where someone in the spirit of the times didn’t say, ‘Let’s leave a note,”’ Martin said.
FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette said evidence from the scene would be sent to the FBI laboratory, but he would not discuss details of the investigation. “We’re not talking about the note,” he added.
Willett said the small explosion damaged a wind shear alert system.