New York: New York police were Sunday seeking a motive and a suspect after a smoking car bomb forced the evacuation of Times Square, the New York Times reported.
Officers on the scene confirmed the device was a bomb, comprising propane gas cylinders, two gas cans, wiring, batteries and fireworks.
However, it failed to detonate correctly.
Times Square is one of New York’s busiest thoroughfares and tourist attractions. Tens of thousands of people are usually in the vicinity on a Saturday night.
New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who rushed back from an event in Washington DC said in an early morning press conference: “We are very lucky. We avoided what could have been a very deadly event”.
“The experts from the police have confirmed that this is, as feared, an explosive device” he added.
Officials said it was not considered to be a terrorist threat, and New York City police reportedly asked federal authorities to stand down.
The New York Times quoted an explosives expert saying the ignition source “failed to function the main charge”.
Kevin Barry, a former supervisor in the New York City police bomb squad, speculated that if it had functioned “it would be more of an incendiary event” than an explosion, according to the report.
The explosive materials were discovered about 6:30 pm (0600 IST Sunday) by a mounted police officer who saw a box with smoke pouring from it in the back of a Nissan Pathfinder, officials said.
There were initial reports that a man was spotted running away from the vehicle. However, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denied that.
Kelly said CCTV pictures from 6:28 pm showed a driver in the vehicle, but he could not be identified. Further examination of surveillance footage would begin, but take several hours.
The shutdown of Times Square affected both hotels and theatres on Broadway, as the police kept the square cordoned off for hours after the discovery.
A robotic bomb-disposal device was seen examining the vehicle, along with experts in blast-proof armoured suits. The car had licence plates from Connecticut, a northern neighbouring state to New York state.