Published: May 03, 2010 11:44 AM EDT

    NEW YORK (AP) - The car bomb was a crude concoction of ordinary
items - fireworks, fuel and fertilizer - that authorities suspect
was meant to cause maximum mayhem in the heart of Times Square.
      In the end, the device fizzled and the city and its residents
counted themselves lucky once again: lucky that a vendor saw smoke
creeping out of the car parked in one of the busiest streets in
America; lucky that authorities responded quickly; and lucky that
the would-be terrorists were clumsy enough to assemble a bomb that
wasn't capable of exploding.
      But it was enough to fray nerves and set off a frenzied probe in
what New York Police Department officials called the most serious
car bomb plot in the city since the first attack on the World Trade
Center in 1993, in which six people were killed and more than 1,000
injured.
      "Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem,
to create casualties," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
      The hunt was on Monday for a middle-aged man who was videotaped
shedding his shirt near the sport utility vehicle where the bomb
was found. Authorities also wanted to talk to the owner of the 1993
Nissan Pathfinder.
      The gasoline-and-propane bomb could have cut the SUV in half,
produced "a significant fireball" and sprayed shrapnel and metal
parts with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows
on one of America's busiest streets, lined with Broadway theaters
and restaurants and full of people out on a Saturday night, Kelly
said.
      The Pakistani Taliban appeared to claim responsibility for the
car bomb in three videos that surfaced after the weekend scare,
monitoring groups said. Kelly said police have no evidence to
support the claims and noted that the same group had falsely taken
credit for previous attacks on U.S. soil.
      Despite the attempt to instill fear, Times Square sprung back to
life.
      "This is America. This is what we do," said Earl Morriss of
Seattle, who was sightseeing. "Nobody is going to stop us from
living our lives and doing what we want to do."
      The New York surveillance video, made public late Sunday, shows
an unidentified white man apparently in his 40s slipping down an
alley and taking off his 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.
Police hoped to interview the tourist who took the video.
      The NYPD and FBI also were examining "hundreds of hours" of
security videotape from around Times Square, Kelly said.
      Police had identified the registered owner of the dark-colored
Pathfinder and were looking to interview him. The vehicle didn't
have an easily visible vehicle identification number and had
license plates that came from a car found in a repair shop in
Connecticut.
      Police released a photograph of the SUV as it crossed an
intersection at 6:28 p.m. Saturday. A vendor pointed out the SUV to
an officer about two minutes later.
      The explosive device in the SUV had cheap-looking alarm clocks
connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks, which were
apparently intended to detonate the gas cans and set the propane
afire in a chain reaction, Kelly said.
      Investigators had feared that a final component placed in the
cargo area - a metal rifle cabinet packed a fertilizer-like
substance and rigged with wires and more fireworks - could have
made the device even more devastating. Test results late Sunday
showed it was indeed fertilizer, but NYPD bomb experts believe it
was not a type volatile enough to explode like the ammonium nitrate
grade fertilizer used in previous terror attacks, said police
spokesman Paul Browne.
      The exact amount of fertilizer was unknown. Police estimated the
cabinet weighed 200 to 250 pounds when they pulled it from the
vehicle.
      Times Square, choked with taxis and people on one of the first
summer-like days of the year, was shut down for 10 hours.
Detectives took the stage at the end of some of Broadway shows to
announce to theatergoers that they were looking for witnesses in a
bombing attempt.
      "No more New York," said Crysta Salinas. The 28-year-old
Houston woman was stuck waiting in a deli until 2 a.m. because part
of a Marriott hotel was evacuated because of the bomb.