Something appears to be going on in Times Square in New York City:
A suspicious vehicle in the heart of Times Square led the police to clear thousands of tourists and theatergoers from the area on a warm and busy Saturday evening.
There was no explosion.
Police officials said a witness reported a running Nissan Pathfinder with Connecticut plates, with smoke coming out of the back. A bomb squad robot popped the back latch of the Pathfinder, and officers found what they initially believed was a bomb. The vehicle was found to contain explosives, gasoline, propane and burned wires, a Fire Department officer told Reuters.
The officer, who did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said that a man was seen fleeing the S.U.V. and that the police evacuated the area in case there were other threats nearby.
The officer said that the police were treating the vehicle as a “failed device.” The police were searching for a suspect.
A federal official said that it was not considered a terrorist threat and that the New York Police Department had told the Department of Homeland Security to stand down.
The license plates on the Nissan were registered to a Ford, the police said.
A New York City firefighter who told Reuters he arrived early on the scene said that the vehicle was smoking and that he saw “a flash” from the back of the it. “We put two and two together” and the evacuation was ordered, he said.
It’s still very early, of course, and this could likely turn out to be some domestic nut with a bunch of crap in the back of his car.
At the same time, though, we’ve got the switched plates, and the guy fleeing the scene.
As they say……developing.
Update @ 12:03am: Reuiters is reporting that the NYPD is confirming that they are dealing with a car bomb:
NEW YORK, May 1 (Reuters) – The New York Police Department said on Saturday the incident that caused Times Square to be evacuated was what appeared to be a car bomb, which was being dismantled by officers on the scene.
“This appears to be a car bomb that the bomb squad is in the process of dismantling,” police spokesman Paul Browne said. “We do not know the motive.”
Well, I guess that makes it official.
Update @ 12:54am: The Daily News has a report about how the incident started:
Heroic cops stopped a car bomb from blowing up in the heart of Times Square Saturday night, officials told the Daily News.
Two female cops patrolling the area noticed a man fumbling with something in the back of a Nissan SUV parked on the southwest corner of 45th St. and Broadway about 7 p.m. The man saw the officers looking and took off running.
The two cops went to the car and saw smoke, clusters of canisters and heard something fizzing, a source said. The quick-acting cops called for backup, and the bomb squad was on the way as the Crossroads of the World was evacuated.
“It looks as if the perp was trying to light it up, and was interrupted by the cops, panicked and took off,” a law enforcement source said.
“It looked like someone tried to detonate it and we got to it in time,” another source said. “This is a big deal. It has the makings of a real car bomb.”
If true, New York owes those two cops a big, big thank you.