Car bomb found in Times Square

Explosives experts disarm Times Square bomb (AP)

Police found an “amateurish” but potentially powerful bomb that apparently began to detonate but did not explode in a smoking sport utility vehicle in Times Square, authorities said Sunday.

Thousands of tourists were cleared from the streets for 10 hours after a T-shirt vendor alerted police to the suspicious vehicle, which contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

“We avoided what we could have been a very deadly event,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “It certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact.”

The bomb appeared to be starting to detonate but malfunctioned, top police spokesman Paul Browne told The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Browne did not immediately return an e-mail to the AP seeking confirmation.

Firefighters who arrived shortly after the first call heard a popping sound, said Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, who described the sound as not quite an explosion.

“I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire,” Kelly said.

No suspects were in custody, though Kelly said a surveillance video showed the car driving west on 45th Street before it parked between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Police were looking for more video from office buildings that weren’t open at the time.

“The full attention of city, state and federal law enforcement will be turned to bringing the guilty party to justice in this act of terrorism,” Gov. David Paterson said in a statement. Bloomberg did not describe it as terrorism.

The T-shirt vendor alerted police at about 6:30 p.m, the height of dinner hour before theatergoers head to Saturday night shows.

Smoke was coming from the back of the dark-colored Pathfinder, its hazard lights were on and “it was just sitting there,” said Rallis Gialaboukis, 37, another vendor who has hawked his wares for 20 years across the street.

A white robotic police arm broke windows of the SUV to remove any explosive materials. A Connecticut license plate on the vehicle did not match up, Bloomberg said. Police interviewed the Connecticut car owner, who told them he had sent the plates to a nearby junkyard, Bloomberg said.

Heavily armed police and emergency vehicles shut down the city’s busiest streets, choked with taxis and people on one of the first summer-like days of the year. Times Square lies about four traffic-choked miles north of where terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, then laid waste to it on Sept. 11, 2001.

The car was parked on one of the prime blocks for Broadway shows, with seven theaters housing such big shows as “The Lion King” and “Billy Elliot.”

The curtain at “God of Carnage” and “Red” opened a half-hour later than usual, but the shows were not canceled, said spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown.

Katy Neubauer, 46, and Becca Saunders, 39, of Milwaukee, were shopping for souvenirs two blocks south of the SUV when they saw panicked crowds.

“It was a mass of people running away from the scene,” Neubauer said.

Said Saunders: “There were too many people, too many cops. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bloomberg left early from the White House correspondent’s dinner Saturday night. President Barack Obama, who attended the annual gala, praised the quick response by the New York Police Department, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

He has also directed his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to advise New York officials that the federal government is prepared to provide support.

Brennan and others will keep Obama up to date on the investigation, Shapiro said.

The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York responded along with the NYPD, said agent Richard Kolko.

“We have no idea who did this or why,” the mayor said Sunday, but said that the city is always a top terrorism target. The latest threat came last fall when air shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi admitted to a foiled homemade bomb plot aimed at the city subway system.

“These things invariably … come back to New York,” Bloomberg said.

The theater district in London was the target of a propane bomb attack in 2007. No one was injured when police discovered two Mercedes loaded with nails packed around canisters of propane and gasoline.

Officials said the device found Saturday was crudely constructed, but Islamic militants have used propane and compressed gas for years to enhance the force of explosives. Those instances include the 1983 suicide attack on the U.S. Marines barracks at the Beirut airport that killed 241 U.S. service members, and the 2007 attack on the international airport in Glasgow, Scotland.

In 2007, the U.S. military announced that an al-Qaida front group was using propane to rig car bombs in Iraq.

Times Square has been a frequent target, if not for potential terrorists, then for rabble-rousers.

In December, a parked van without license plates led police to block off part of the area for about two hours. A police robot examined the vehicle, and clothes, racks and scarves were found inside.

In March 2008, a hooded bicyclist hurled an explosive device at a military recruiting center, producing a flash, smoke and full-scale emergency response. No suspect was ever identified.

Police have spent years trying to crack down on street hustlers and peddlers preying on tourists. But there have been two major gunfights in recent months. A street hustler armed with a machine pistol exchanged shots in December, shattering a Broadway theater ticket window, before police fatally shot him.

Four shootings and more than 50 arrests on a mile-long stretch of Manhattan last month around Times Square prompted the mayor to call the mayhem “wilding.”

___

Contributing to this report were AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier, AP Radio correspondent Julie Walker in New York and Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Pete Yost in Washington, Michael Kuchwara in New York and Robert H. Reid in Kabul.

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7 Responses to "Car bomb found in Times Square"

  1. b mcclellan  May 2, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Parked with emergency flashers on.
    Was it legally parked ?
    They walked up to it before the bomb squad arrived close enough to hear a popping sound.

    This fish stinks all the way to the tail..

  2. Almandine  May 2, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Must have been a tea wagon. :>/

    • woody188  May 3, 2010 at 7:02 pm

      More like anarchists (agent provocateurs) crashing a tea wagon. :)

  3. b mcclellan  May 2, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Shure wern’t a buncha sand jungle-jim swingers.

    Are we on the way too,

    ” Fear Strikes Out ” , Piersall style ?

    Madness ?

    Fear the nine lashes, and terrible the scar.

    End this tedious bent.

  4. woody188  May 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    The Mayor is a hero, the Police are heroes, the fire commissioner is a hero, two women shopping nearby are heroes, but the guy that called it in, the T-shirt vendor, who is Muslim, isn’t mentioned by name.

    It’s what’s missing from stories that you have to watch for to really understand how we are controlled.

    • woody188  May 3, 2010 at 7:46 pm

      And since this article links to a Hutaree article in the “You might also like” section, I want to point out that Judge Roberts said this today and made them eligible for bail:

      “Discussions about killing local law enforcement officers — and even discussions about killing members of the judicial branch of government — do not translate to conspiring to overthrow, or levy war against, the United States government”

      Seems some judges still follow the letter of the law.

      • woody188  May 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

        Lastly (I swear) this might be linked to the recent demands by Revolution Muslim to the creators of the South Park television show to remove images of Muhammad from their website as apparently this bomb was near the building Comedy Central is located in. Since Revolution Muslim is a hoax website pretending to be Muslim extremists but is actually funded and run by Joseph Cohen, and given that the now discredited claim of a Pakistan Taliban group taking credit for the bombing attempt came from another Israeli propaganda operation run by the daughter of an executed Israeli spy, then this is probably a failed false flag event.

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