Police in Times Square neutralized an explosive device discovered inside an SUV Saturday night, after evacuating thousands of tourists from the area.
The search is now on to determine who planted the device and why.
“We’re very lucky,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who rushed to the scene from the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in Washington, D.C. “Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”
Bloomberg, speaking to reporters one block away from where the vehicle was discovered, warned of the dangers of terrorism – but did not specifically characterize the incident as an intended international terror attack.
The device was discovered at around 6:30 Saturday evening in an idling Nissan Pathfinder near the corner of Seventh Avenue and 45th Street by a street vendor, who then alerted a mounted New York City Police Department patrolman.
Witnesses in the area reported hearing a loud bang emanating from the vehicle at around that time, but it appears there was no sizeable explosion.
A police spokesman said later that the device “appeared it was in the process of detonating, but it malfunctioned.”
Once the area was cleared, authorities used a remote-controlled robotic vehicle to neutralize the device and then begin the process of dismantling it.
Once the situation was stabilized sometime after midnight, the robot was withdrawn and specially-protected members of the bomb squad worked to remove the remaining material from the vehicle by hand.
Police also recovered a black metal box resembling a gun locker.
According to the NYPD, the vehicle’s VIN number had been removed and the car’s license plate did not match its registration. Officials said an investigation was underway to determine who abandoned the vehicle and why.