NY bomb 'an act of terrorism'
New York - Police were tipped off by a street vendor. They found and defused a car bomb inside a sport utility vehicle, thwarting an "act of terrorism" that forced the evacuation of New York's Times Square on Saturday and could have killed many people, authorities said early on Sunday.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference that "we have no idea who did this or why." He said the failed bomb - made of propane, gasoline and fireworks - appeared to have been made in an amateurish manner.
Times Square is a popular tourist destination in Manhattan's Midtown, and was packed with tourists and theatre-goers on a busy and warm Saturday night.
"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," New York Governor David Paterson said in a statement.
Bloomberg said a T-shirt vendor noticed "an unoccupied suspicious vehicle" and alerted a police officer on horseback, who saw that the dark-green Nissan Pathfinder had smoke coming from vents near the back seat and smelled of gun powder.
Improvised car bomb
"The NYPD bomb squad has rendered safe an improvised car bomb," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
"We are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event," Bloomberg told reporters.
US President Barack Obama commended the "quick action" by New York police in dealing with the incident and said they had done "excellent work" in responding.
The bomb was discovered at around 18:30 in the vehicle parked on 45th street and Broadway with its engine running and hazard lights flashing, officials said. It had Connecticut license plates that did not match the vehicle.
Kelly said the bomb squad had removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two filled 19 litre gasoline containers, two clocks, batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire and other components.
A locked metal box resembling a gun locker had also been removed and taken to a safe location to be detonated, he said.
"This wasn't make believe. This wasn't a false alarm. This was the real deal - to hurt people," said Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, adding that the force of the bomb had it gone off could have taken down the front of a building.
Bloomberg said police patrols of the rest of New York City had not found anything suspicious.
Vehicle seen on police cameras
New York has remained on high alert for another attack 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.
Kelly said the vehicle had tinted windows and was seen on police surveillance cameras travelling west along 45th street and that police were now attempting to examine footage from other cameras in the area.
Bloomberg said authorities had spoken to the man who owned the vehicle's licence plates. The man said the plates belonged to a truck that he had sent to a junk yard and Bloomberg said police were now attempting to speak to the junk yard owner.
In Washington, FBI spokesperson Richard Kolko said the Joint Terrorism Task Force has responded along with the NYPD.
A US official, who asked not to be identified by name, said the US Department of Homeland Security was aware of the situation and was monitoring developments.
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 theatre-goers watched from behind barricades as anti-terrorism units swarmed the scene.