03
May
10

Times Square Vehicle’s Owner ‘Not a Suspect’

NEWS
Times Square Vehicle’s Owner ‘Not a Suspect’

Monday, May 3, 2010

A law enforcement official says the registered owner of an SUV used in a botched bombing in Times Square told investigators he sold it for cash three weeks ago.

The official tells The Associated Press that the Connecticut owner questioned on Sunday about what happened to the SUV says he sold the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder to a stranger.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP on Monday because the investigation is at a sensitive stage.

Investigators interviewed the last owner on record of the vehicle in a probe of a failed bombing that cleared several streets around Times Square of thousands of tourists on a busy Saturday night.

Officials say the owner, whose name has not been released, is not considered a suspect.

Police said the crude petrol-and-propane bomb discovered on Saturday at Times Square could have produced ‘a significant fireball’ and sprayed shrapnel and metal parts with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows. The SUV was parked on one of America’s busiest streets, lined with Broadway theatres and restaurants and full of people out on a Saturday night.

The area bounced back quickly and had returned to its normal bustle on a rainy Monday morning.

Police released a photograph of the SUV as it crossed an intersection at 6.28pm EDT. A handbag vendor pointed out the SUV to an officer about two minutes later.

President Barack Obama on Monday telephoned the vendor, Duane Jackson, 58, of Buchanan, New York, to commend him for alerting authorities to the smoking SUV. The White House said Obama thanked Jackson for his vigilance and for acting quickly to prevent serious trouble.

On Sunday, Bloomberg took NYPD officer Wayne Rhatigan of the mounted police force out for a steak dinner a few blocks from the bombing attempt. Rhatigan had quickly moved tourists out of the way when he was told of the smoking SUV.

Paul Browne, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information, said officials were still looking for the driver.

The vehicle identification number on the 1993 dark-coloured Nissan Pathfinder had been removed from the dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine and axle. Its licence plates came from a car found in a Connecticut repair shop.

Investigators were also looking on Monday to speak with a man in his 40s videotaped shedding his shirt near the sport utility vehicle where the bomb was found.

The surveillance video, made public late on Sunday, shows an unidentified white man apparently in his 40s slipping down Shubert Alley and taking off his shirt, revealing another underneath. In the same clip, he looks back in the direction of the smoking vehicle and furtively puts the first shirt in a bag.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that investigators have some good leads in addition to the videotape of the man. Holder said in remarks to reporters that it was too early to say whether the incident was of foreign or domestic origin or to designate it as terrorism.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on NBC’s Today show on Monday that no suspects or theories had been ruled out. ‘Right now, every lead has to be pursued,’ she said.

And investigators had not ruled out a range of possible motives. The Pakistani Taliban appeared to claim responsibility for the car bomb in three videos that surfaced after the weekend scare, monitoring groups said. New York officials said police have no evidence to support the claims.

Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Monday on Fox News that there was no intelligence chatter before Saturday, making a foreign connection unlikely.

The SUV was parked near offices of Viacom Inc, which owns Comedy Central. The network recently aired an episode of the animated show South Park that the group Revolution Muslim had complained insulted the Prophet Mohammed by depicting him in a bear costume.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg cautioned that the man on the tape may not become a suspect but urged him to come forward.

‘He may or may not have been involved,’ he said, adding it was a hot day and he might simply have been trying to cool off.
• Source(s): Associated Press and Thomson Reuters

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