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U.S. Calls Failed NYC 'Bomb 'Potential Terrorist Act'

  • RFE/RL

Police standing guard after Times Square was evacuated

Police standing guard after Times Square was evacuated

Federal officials in the United States are treating a bomb found in a parked car in New York's Times Square as a potential terrorist attack.

On the night of May 1, New York police were tipped off by a street vendor who saw a sports utility vehicle with smoke coming out of its back windows, its engine running and parked at an awkward angle. Police who responded found a crude explosive device that Mayor Michael Bloomberg described as an "amateurish" but potentially deadly bomb.

Packed into dark green Nissan Pathfinder with tinted windows were canisters of propane and gasoline, among other devices.

Speaking to reporters early on May 2, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "NYPD bomb technicians have removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two five-gallon gasoline containers filled, and two clocks along with batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire and other components stored in the rear of the vehicle."

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the ABC News program "This Week" that officials "are treating it as if it could be a potential terrorist attack."

When the bomb was discovered police cleared the streets of thousands of people and evacuated some nearby Broadway theaters and hotels.

All intersections in the area were blocked by police and fire department vehicles as bomb disposal experts worked on the vehicle.

Times Square is one of the busiest tourist areas in New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city had avoided what "could have been a very deadly event."

"Firefighters, emergency service officers, and the bomb squad responded, and the bomb squad confirmed that the suspicious vehicle did indeed contain an explosive device," Bloomberg said.

"There were gas cans and bomb-making materials in the car," he added. "The experts at the bomb squad are removing them as we speak. Who abandoned the car and why are under investigation by the [New York Police Department]."

Suspicious Phone Call

At a second press briefing, Kelly said there was no evidence of a link to the Taliban.

He said that "whoever did this [intended to] cause mayhem [and] create casualties," and called the incident a reminder that New York City "is clearly a target of people who want to come here and do us harm."

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press, said investigators were using the vehicle's identification number to trace the ownership of the SUV.

In addition, "The New York Times" reported that police and FBI officials were investigating a call to police made from a local payphone around 4 a.m. on May 2.

The "Times" reported that the caller told the dispatcher who answered "not to interrupt him until he was finished [speaking] and then said there would be a massive explosion soon and the car in Times Square was only a diversion."

U.S. President Barack Obama praised the New York police's "quick action" and "excellent work" in responding to the incident. The White House said the president was being kept up to date about the ongoing investigation.

New York has remained on high alert since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that saw Al-Qaeda operators fly hijacked planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Times Square is about 6 kilometers due north of where the Twin Towers used to stand.

The most recent terror alert in New York City involved an attempt to plant bombs in the city's subway system.

In February, an Afghan immigrant with self-confessed ties to Al-Qaeda pleaded guilty in connection with the plot.

with agency reports