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NEW YORK - New York police yesterday hunted a middle-aged white male seen near a car bomb in Times Square that sparked a new terrorist alert and authorities discounted an al-Qaeda link.
The man, in his 40s, was caught on a security camera taking his shirt off near the car just before the alert was raised and police cleared thousands of tourists from the packed theatre district, officials said.
President Barack Obama vowed to track down the attackers and investigators said there were several strong leads as to who abandoned the Nissan Pathfinder utility vehicle with a large, spluttering home-made bomb inside late on Saturday.
Police studied footage from 82 security cameras around Times Square. One film sequence showed the man that city police chief Raymond Kelly said was acting in a "furtive" manner as he hurried away from the area.
He was "a white male in his 40s" and "seen shedding a dark coloured shirt revealing a red one underneath," Kelly said.
He said a tourist had contacted police to say he "might have got a picture of the individual" while he was filming a nearby mounted policeman.
While New York has been on a terrorist alert since the September 11 2001 attacks, authorities have ruled out a major Islamist militant link to the bomb.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "There is no evidence that this is tied in with al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organisation."
Kelly also dismissed a claim of responsibility made over the Internet by the Pakistani group Tehreek-e-Taliban. - Sapa-AFP