Car bomb found in Times Square

CAR BOMB FOUND IN TIMES SQUARE…. It was, by all accounts, quite a scene in midtown Manhattan last night, and we can all be very thankful no one was hurt.

A crude car bomb of propane, gasoline and fireworks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers on a warm and busy night. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, there was no explosion, and early on Sunday the authorities were still seeking a suspect and motive.

“We are very lucky,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a 2:15 a.m. press conference. “We avoided what could have been a very deadly event.”

According to officials, around 6:30 p.m. (ET), a dark green Pathfinder parked awkwardly at a curb. A T-shirt vendor noticed smoke coming from the truck — which had its hazard lights on and its engine still running — and alerted a mounted police officer. The officer approached the vehicle, smelled gunpowder, called for backup, and the police began evacuating Times Square.

The Nissan’s windows were broken by a robot, which also removed explosives. Inside, officials found three propane tanks, consumer-grade fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components. The mayor described the device as “amateurish.”

Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman, added that the bomb apparently “malfunctioned.”

Specific details about the device are, not surprisingly, still coming together, but a former supervisor for the NYPD bomb squad said that had the device functioned as intended, “it would be more of an incendiary event” than an explosion.

At this point, there is no information about possible suspects or motives, and the effort to collect video surveillance was still underway.

President Obama, of course, was briefed on developments last night, and told NYC officials that the administration was prepared to help in the investigation.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.