Car bomber targets crossroads of the world

US: Police in the US found an ``amateurish’’ but potentially powerful bomb in a smoking sport utility vehicle in New York’s Times Square, then cleared the streets of thousands of tourists milling through the landmark district so they could dismantle it, authorities said today.

``We avoided what we could have been a very deadly event,’’ Mayor Michael

Bloomberg said. ``It certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and

a decent amount of explosive impact.’’

Investigators removed three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two filled five-gallon petrol containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference early today.

A black metal box resembling a gun locker was also recovered.

``I think the intent was to cause a significant ball of fire,’’ Mr Kelly said.

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Mr Bloomberg called the explosive device ``amateurish’’ but potentially deadly, noting: ``We are very lucky.’’

A white robotic police arm broke windows of the black Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle to remove any explosive materials after a T-shirt vendor alerted police to the smoking vehicle at about 6:30pm (11.30 pm BST) yesterday.

Heavily armed police and emergency vehicles shut down the city’s busiest streets, teeming with taxis and theatregoers on one of the first summer-like days of the year.

After the vendor noticed smoke coming from the SUV, police cleared buildings and streets at the so-called ``Crossroads of the World’’; the area remained closed hours later. Officers were deployed around the area with heavy weapons on empty streets in the heart of busy midtown Manhattan.

President Barack Obama praised the quick response by the New York Police Department, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. He has also directed his homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to advise New York officials that the federal government is prepared to provide support.