NEW YORK -
The registered owner of an SUV that was parked in Times Square and rigged with a crude propane-and-gasoline bomb told investigators he sold the vehicle to a stranger for cash three weeks ago, a law enforcement official said Monday.
The owner, who lives in Connecticut, was questioned Sunday about his sale of the dark-colored 1993 Nissan Pathfinder to a man he didn't know, the official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into the botched bombing is at a sensitive stage.
Officials say the owner, whose name has not been released, is not considered a suspect into the bomb scare which forced thousands of tourists to be cleared from several streets in the heart of Times Square Saturday night.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne confirmed Monday that investigators had spoken to the registered owner, declining further comment. Investigators were still searching for the driver.
The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Pathfinder's dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine and axle, and investigators used it to find the owner of record.
Two law enforcement officials familiar with the probe said investigators considered the vehicle's history one of the best chances for cracking the case.
Investigators tracked the licence plates to a used auto parts shop in Stratford, Conn., where they discovered the plates were connected to a different vehicle.
They also spoke to the owner of an auto sales shop in nearby Bridgeport because a sticker on the Pathfinder indicated the SUV had been sold by his dealership. Owner Tom Manis said there was no match between the identification number the officers showed him and any vehicle he sold.
In New York, police and FBI were examining hundreds of hours of video from around the area and wanted to speak with a man in his 40s who was videotaped shedding his shirt near the Pathfinder.
The video shows the man slipping down Shubert Alley and taking off his shirt, revealing another underneath. In the same clip, looks back in the direction of the smoking vehicle and puts the first shirt in a bag.
They travelled to Pennsylvania for video shot by a tourist of a different person, and were evaluating the tape and determining whether to make it public.
In Washington, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Saturday's attempted bombing was a terrorist act.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who earlier in the day refused to classify the incident as terrorism, said the bomber intended to spread fear across New York and said investigators had some good leads in addition to the videotape that was released Sunday.
Investigators had not ruled out a range of possible motives, and federal officials said they hadn't narrowed down whether the bomber was homegrown or foreign.