NEW YORK – Police investigating a failed attack that could have set off a deadly fireball in Times Square focused Sunday on finding a man who was videotaped shedding his shirt near the SUV where the bomb was found.
Police said the gasoline-and-propane bomb was crude but could have sprayed shrapnel and metal parts with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows on one of America’s busiest streets.
The bomb “looks like it would have caused a significant fireball” had it fully detonated, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
A large amount of fertilizer rigged with wires and fireworks was found with the bomb, but police said it was not the ammonium nitrate grade that can explode.
The surveillance video shows an unidentified white man apparently in his 40s slipping down an alley and taking off a shirt, revealing another underneath. In the same clip, he’s seen looking back in the direction of the smoking vehicle and furtively putting the first shirt in a bag, Kelly said.
The homemade bomb was made largely with ordinary items, including three barbecue grill-size propane tanks, two 5-gallon gasoline containers, store-bought fireworks and cheap alarm clocks attached to wires.
“Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem, to create casualties,” Kelly said.
A Pakistani Taliban group claimed responsibility for the failed attack in a video. Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, said police have no evidence to support the claims.
Monitoring group IntelCenter said the Pakistani Taliban released another video, apparently dated early April, of their leader promising an imminent attack on major U.S. cities.
Bloomberg noted that the investigation was in its early stages but said, “So far, there is no evidence that any of this has anything to do with one of the recognized terrorist organizations.”