Page last updated at 04:02 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 05:02 UK

NY police 'make progress' in car bomb probe


BBC'S Madeleine Morris describes what can be seen in CCTV footage

US police have made "substantial progress" in investigating an attempted car bomb attack in New York city, US Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Mr Holder said police had established "good leads" into who parked the vehicle in Times Square on Saturday.

Police have found the registered owner of the vehicle, who sold it three weeks ago. He is not a suspect, police said.

Officials told media outlets that the buyer of the car is a US citizen from Pakistan who recently travelled there.

The vehicle, a Nissan Pathfinder SUV, was bought without paperwork for cash by the suspect, news agencies said citing anonymous officials.

A spokesman for the New York Police Department told the BBC he could not confirm the reports they were looking for a Pakistani suspect.

It was an unsubtle and unsettling reminder that threats could be lurking in the trunks or back seats of any of the thousands of vehicles that push their way into the city every day
Ray Rivera, New York Times

The news follows other comments from anonymous officials that there may be a foreign connection to the attempted bombing.

Mr Holder told reporters he was confident the investigation would be successful "and the people responsible for that attempt will be found and brought to justice".

"We have some good leads," he said, referring to the CCTV images. "We are following a number of other leads as well."

Police sources told news agencies that the registered owner of the Nissan had been questioned but was not a suspect in the case.

He sold the car three weeks ago for cash to a man he did not know for cash.

The car's registration plates did not match the Nissan and belonged to a car owner in the state of Connecticut. That man told officers he had sent the plates to a scrap-yard.

The dark-coloured SUV was left parked in Times Square on Saturday evening with its engine running and its hazard lights flashing, with a bomb made from fertiliser, fireworks, petrol and propane gas cylinders inside.

Experts say the device would have caused mayhem had it exploded.

Times Square was packed with tourists and theatregoers when a street vendor raised the alarm.

Police evacuated a wide area of the district and closed subway lines, while a controlled explosion was carried out.

Officials said the bomb was crude, but could have sparked a "significant fireball".

'Tell-tale signs'

Investigators have released a video of a man taking off his shirt, stuffing it into his bag and then walking off, looking in the direction of the car.

Although police are keen to find the man, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined to call him a suspect.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at press conference
Police are interviewing hundreds of witnesses

Police are also examining footage shot by a tourist of another person, but have not released it to the public.

Earlier, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials were cautious about links to international militant groups following claims of responsibility from the Pakistani Taliban.

"I know that group in the past has claimed responsibility for incidents that [they] ultimately were not connected to," Mr Bloomberg said.

He said that there was "no legitimate evidence" of a link to al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any other militant group.

But later on Monday, anonymous US officials told media outlets that they were beginning to suspect a non-US connection.

"Don't be surprised if you find a foreign nexus... They're looking at some tell-tale signs and they're saying it's pointing in that direction," said one US official quoted by the Washington Post.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told NBC that nothing had so far been ruled out.

"Right now, every lead has to be pursued," she said. "I caution against premature decisions one way or another."

The NYPD has been on constant alert since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

Earlier this year, two men, one an Afghan immigrant, pleaded guilty to a plot to set off suicide bombs in the city's subway system.

And last year four New Yorkers went on trial accused of plotting to bomb synagogues in the city and fire missiles at military aircraft.

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