Police Probe Failed Car Bomb in Times Square
Police tipped off by an alert street vendor have found and defused a car bomb parked in New York's Times Square, one of the city's most popular tourist destinations.
New York governor David Paterson described the car bomb as an "act of terrorism" while Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference that "we have no idea who did this or why".
Mr Bloomberg said the failed bomb - made of propane, gasoline and fireworks - appeared to have been made in an amateurish manner.
And Mr Bloomberg praised the quick response by the New York Police Department.
"We are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event," he said.
Mr Bloomberg said an alert T-shirt vendor noticed "an unoccupied suspicious vehicle" and alerted a mounted New York police officer, who observed the SUV had smoke emerging from vents near the back seat and smelled of gun powder.
The incident caused the evacuation of Times Square, which was packed with tourists and theater-goers on a busy Saturday night.
New York governor David Paterson described the car bomb as an "act of terrorism".
"Luckily no-one is hurt and now 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," he said in a statement.
The bomb was discovered in a dark green Nissan Pathfinder parked on 45th Street and Broadway with its engine running and hazard lights flashing, authorities said.
It had Connecticut license plates that did not match the vehicle.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said police bomb technicians removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two gasoline containers and two clocks apparently used as timers, along with electrical wire and other components in the rear of the vehicle.
New York has remained on high alert since the September 11, 2001 attacks in which hijacked airliners toppled the World Trade Centre's twin towers.
Last year police said they thwarted a plot to bomb the New York subway system. Two men have pleaded guilty in the case.
US president Barack Obama commended the "quick action" by New York police in dealing with the incident and said the New York Police Department had done "excellent work" in responding.
A New York police officer, who did not give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said a man was seen fleeing the car and that Times Square was evacuated in case there were other devices.
In Washington, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the Joint Terrorism Task Force had responded along with the NYPD.
Times Square was eerily empty for several blocks on Saturday night, the busiest night of the week on the Great White Way as tourists and theatregoers watched from behind barricades as anti-terrorism units swarmed the scene.
Memories of 9/11
Don Slovin, watching the police through the window of a souvenir shop a block from the SUV, said, "Of course it conjures up memories of 9/11".
The SUV was parked very close to a production of the show The Lion King on 45th Street. Women in evening gowns were among the crowd on one of the warmest nights of the year and the busiest night of the week for Broadway theatres.
"It's New York. If you're from New York you just get used to it," said Creswell Rudolph, 37, a bank security guard stationed a block from the SUV. "It could have been a lot worse."
"With this, it's just lucky they found it in time. Thank God for that."
Vehicle and pedestrian traffic was very heavy on streets outside the evacuation zone, including Sixth and Eighth Avenues. All intersections in the area were blocked by police and fire department vehicles, lights flashing.
Police allowed some people to enter theatres to view Broadway shows in the vicinity but later blocked other theatregoers from entering. Some hotel guests were allowed back to their rooms. Some Broadway shows were allowed to go on.
Police shut down Times Square from 43rd Street to 48th Street between Sixth and Eight Avenues.
Tourists in the area expressed annoyance and amusement. Nam Vu, 24, said he had arrived by bus in New York at 8am from Canada and was prevented from meeting a friend at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.
"I feel like I'm on a TV show," he said. "Where is [actor] Denzel Washington?"