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US investigators hunt NY car bomb culprits

world Updated: May 03, 2010 10:51 IST
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Investigators were combing through evidence on Monday in the hunt for suspects in a failed car bombing in New York's busy Times Square and officials expressed optimism that the culprits will be found.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was no evidence of a link to al Qaeda or any other militant organization in the failed bomb attack on Saturday evening that prompted the evacuation of the teeming entertainment and shopping district.

"It's unfortunate that this happened. I'm confident that we will find out who did it," Bloomberg told reporters outside a Times Square restaurant.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said a white man in his 40s was spotted in security video footage and was seen removing a dark shirt about half a block from where the vehicle was left with its engine running and hazard lights flashing.

Bloomberg had dinner with policeman Wayne Rhatigan, who was tipped off by an alert street vendor about a suspicious Nissan sport utility vehicle on West 45th Street near Broadway.

The Taliban in Pakistan said it planted the bomb to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda's two top leaders in Iraq. But
Kelly said there was "no evidence" to support that claim.

Investigators were poring over surveillance camera footage and a device made of propane, gasoline and fireworks after officers found the bomb in the vehicle as Times Square in Midtown Manhattan was packed with tourists and theater-goers.

President Barack Obama received regular updates on the incident as he visited Louisiana to assess the response to the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We're going to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people, to determine who's behind this potentially deadly act and to see that justice is done," said Obama, who was accompanied on the trip by his counterterrorism chief John

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the scare a "potential terrorist attack" but she and other officials held off saying whether there was a link to Islamist groups or to a domestic cause in the United States.

Security at U.S. East Coast airports was boosted in the wake of the incident to counter possible vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices at airports and crowded public spaces, a Department of Homeland Security official said.

Michael Cheah, senior portfolio manager at SunAmerica Asset Management, said the car bomb was an "isolated incident" that was not likely to spark any Treasury market reaction.

New York and its 8 million people have been on high alert since the September 11 attacks in 2001 when airliners hijacked by al Qaeda militants toppled the World Trade Center's twin towers, killing more than 2,600 people.