Al Baker and William K. Rashbaum in the NYT:
A crude car bomb of propane, gasoline and fireworks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers on a warm and busy night. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, there was no explosion, and early on Sunday the authorities were still seeking a suspect and motive.
“We are very lucky,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a 2:15 a.m. press conference. “We avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”
A large swath of Midtown — from 43rd Street to 48th Street, and from Sixth to Eighth Avenues — was closed for much of the evening after the Pathfinder was discovered just off Broadway on 45th Street. Several theaters and stores, as well as the South Tower of the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, were evacuated.
Mr. Bloomberg was joined by Gov. David A. Paterson, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and other officials at the early morning press conference to give a chronology of the vehicle’s discovery, its disarming, and the investigation that has been launched. The mayor and police commissioner had returned early from the annual White House correspondents’ dinner in Washington.
At 6:28 p.m., Mr. Kelly said, a video surveillance camera recorded what was believed to be the dark green Nissan S.U.V. driving west on 45th Street.
Moments later, a T-shirt vendor on the sidewalk saw smoke coming out of vents near the back seat of the S.U.V., which was now parked awkwardly at the curb with its engine running and its hazard lights on. The vendor called to a mounted police officer, the mayor said, who smelled gunpowder when he approached the S.U.V. and called for assistance. The police began evacuating Times Square, starting with businesses along Seventh Avenue, including a Foot Locker store and a McDonald’s.
According to officials, around 6:30 p.m. (ET), a dark green Pathfinder parked awkwardly at a curb. A T-shirt vendor noticed smoke coming from the truck — which had its hazard lights on and its engine still running — and alerted a mounted police officer. The officer approached the vehicle, smelled gunpowder, called for backup, and the police began evacuating Times Square.
The Nissan’s windows were broken by a robot, which also removed explosives. Inside, officials found three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components. The mayor described the device as “amateurish.”
Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman, added that the bomb apparently “malfunctioned.”
Specific details about the device are, not surprisingly, still coming together, but a former supervisor for the NYPD bomb squad said that had the device functioned as intended, “it would be more of an incendiary event” than an explosion.
At this point, there is no information about possible suspects or motives, and the effort to collect video surveillance was still underway.
President Obama, of course, was briefed on developments last night, and told NYC officials that the administration was prepared to help in the investigation.
Buildings in the vicinity were quickly evacuated, which tells you how seriously they were taking this and how much explosive power they feared the bomb might have. Said Bloomberg, putting it mildly, “We are very lucky.” As for possible culprits, trying to set off a bomb with fireworks doesn’t sound like the work of master jihadis, but then the 2007 London plot was a jihad operation too and that didn’t come off either. The basic ingredients in both plots are the same — propane and gasoline, a.k.a. a fuel-air device. Read this Time magazine piece from five years ago about Al Qaeda capo Dhiren Barot’s “Gas Limo Plot,” which involved packing limousines with tanks of compressed gas, driving them into underground garages, and detonating them to create a fuel-air concussion that would bring down the building. As I understand it, an enclosed place is ideal for maximum damage from a bomb like that, but obviously not essential. In fact, the cars found in the London plot three years ago were discovered parked on the street, just like the one found last night.
Ben Williams at New York Magazine:
Police are reviewing security videotapes. However, the SUV’s windows were tinted, which could make it hard to see anyone inside on the tapes. On “Meet the Press” this morning, Janet Napolitano said fingerprints and other forensic evidence were recovered.
Apparently stolen, the SUV had Connecticut license plates from another car, a Ford F-150. Police interviewed the owner of that car but said he was not a suspect; they’re investigating the junkyard where the Ford was left.
Broadway shows were canceled or delayed. The area between West 43rd to 47th Streets along Broadway and Seventh Avenue was blocked with metal railings last night, and parts of West 48th Street were also closed. Times Square is now reopen.
Everyone agrees the NYPD did a fantastic job.
At least one tourist managed to make light of the situation: “It’s a whole different kind of show,” Tay Heniser of Seattle told the Times, adding, “It’s almost the equivalent of a $150 show.”
Mark Steyn at The Corner:
While the initial US reports on the Times Square car bomb concentrated on the by now traditional denials that this was anything to do with terrorism and, even if it was, it was “amateurish”, the Telegraph in Britain was the first to note the parking space:
The dark green Nissan Pathfinder with tinted windows was parked near the junction of 45th Street and Broadway.
The location is also adjacent to the Viacom building, fuelling speculation that it might be linked to the company’s controversial South Park cartoon which recently depicted Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
UPDATE: John Hinderaker at Powerline
Daniel Foster at The Corner
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard
UPDATE #2: James Fallows
UPDATE #3: Jules Crittenden
Mark Steyn at The Corner
UPDATE #4: Frank James at NPR
UPDATE #5: Doug Mataconis
Brian Palmer at Slate
UPDATE #6: Dana Mangan at New York Post
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard