Police defuse car bomb on Times Square

Police tipped off by an alert street vendor found and defused a car bomb inside a sport utility vehicle in an incident that forced the evacuation of New York’s Times Square on Saturday and could have turned into a “very deadly event,” authorities said early on Sunday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told a news conference that “we have no idea who did this and why”. He said the bomb appeared to have been made in an amateurish manner.

Times Square is a popular tourist destination in Manhattan’s Midtown.

“We are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event,” Bloomberg said.

He said an alert T-shirt vendor noticed “an unoccupied suspicious vehicle” and alerted a mounted New York police officer, who observed that the SUV had smoke emerging from vents near the back seat and smelled of gunpowder.


“The NYPD bomb squad has rendered safe an improvised car bomb,” said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

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.

Kelly said police bomb technicians removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two petrol containers and two clocks apparently used as timers, along with electrical wire and other components in the rear of the car.

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.

Obama commends quick action
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 spokesperson Richard Kolko said the Joint Terrorism Task Force has responded along with the NYPD.

Eerily empty
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, but declined to comment further. The official said the New York Police Department was in charge of the investigation.

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.

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,” he said.

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 theatergoers 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 Denzel Washington?” – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Clare Baldwin
Clare Baldwin works from Hong Kong. Special Correspondent for Reuters. Pulitzer Prize winner. Standard disclaimers. PGP: 55C7 F571 0092 FC5B Clare Baldwin has over 2897 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

No mention of Africa when it comes to US foreign policy

During pre-election debates in the United States, very little has been said on how they view one of the world’s largest markets — which, in turn, is determined to come into its own

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

The challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine in Africa requires a new approach

It is imperative that we train healthcare workers and participate in continent-wide collaboration

Spain detains software creator McAfee wanted in US

The announcement of his arrest comes a day after US prosecutors released an indictment against McAfee for allegedly failing to report income
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

SA justice delays extradition of paedophile to UK

Efforts to bring Lee Nigel Tucker to justice have spanned 16 years and his alleged victims have waited for 30 years

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday