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NYC Bombing Suspect Charged With Terrorism


FILE - Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant who set off a crude pipe bomb at a New York commuter hub during morning rush hour Monday, is seen in a handout photo received Dec. 11, 2017, from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

U.S. federal prosecutors announced terrorism charges against Akayed Ullah on Tuesday, a day after the 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant allegedly detonated a pipe bomb in a New York City subway tunnel in what authorities said was an attack inspired by the Islamic State group.

The charges included bombing a public place and using a weapon of mass destruction, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Ullah was also accused of providing material support to IS, destruction of property by means of an explosive and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence, according to a criminal complaint disclosed Tuesday. These charges carry sentences of five to 30 years each.

Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the charges at a news conference in New York.

"Yesterday morning, as thousands came into New York City through Port Authority, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, one man came with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose," Kim said. "In the middle of rush hour, as everyday New Yorkers hurried to their jobs, to their schools, ready to start the workweek and get going with their busy lives, one man came to kill, to maim and to destroy," he said.

Police and fire crews block off the streets near the New York Port Authority in New York City, U.S. Dec. 11, 2017 after reports of an explosion.
Police and fire crews block off the streets near the New York Port Authority in New York City, U.S. Dec. 11, 2017 after reports of an explosion.

The attack took place in a tunnel that connects the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Times Square subway stations. Surveillance footage shows the attacker walking among the rush-hour crowd, and then smoke filling the area as the device goes off. The man is then seen lying on the ground as people rush away from the scene.

Kim said Ullah picked his target and timed his attack in order to "maximize human casualties."

The bomb, however, did not fully explode. Ullah was injured, and three others were slightly hurt.

Ullah remained hospitalized Tuesday, and Kim said the charges would be formally presented to him at his hospital bedside.

Admission reported

In an interview with investigators at the hospital, Ullah admitted to building the bomb and carrying out the attack in the name of the IS terrorist organization.

"I did it for the Islamic State," Ullah told interrogators, according to the complaint.

Ullah also reportedly told authorities he detonated the bomb "in part because of the United States government's policies in, among other places, the Middle East."

Ullah immigrated to the United States in 2011 and is a legal permanent resident. From 2012 to 2015, he worked as a taxi driver.

Mohammad Toha, Ullah's uncle, told VOA's Bangla service that a relative had sponsored Ullah's family to immigrate to the United States.

With no known ties to a foreign terrorist organization, the suspect appears to have acted on his own. William Sweeney, the assistant FBI director for the New York field office, told reporters that Ullah had not registered on the bureau's radar for suspicious activity.

A crowd moves past police responding to a report of an explosion near Times Square on Dec. 11, 2017, in New York.
A crowd moves past police responding to a report of an explosion near Times Square on Dec. 11, 2017, in New York.

The complaint details Ullah's self-radicalization in recent years. It says Ullah became radicalized as he began watching IS propaganda videos online as far back as 2014. One video exhorted IS sympathizers to carry out terror attacks in their homelands if they couldn't join the caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

About a year ago, according to the complaint, Ullah began researching how to build homemade bombs.

Two to three weeks ago, Ullah started collecting bomb-making materials — wires, metal screws, plastic zip ties and a Christmas tree light bulb, the complaint said. He built the crude device at his apartment in New York's Brooklyn borough a week before the attack, it said.

On Monday morning, prior to arriving at Port Authority station, Ullah posted on his Facebook page, "Trump, you failed to protect your nation."

Attack on pedestrians

The bungled attack came less than two months after Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, drove a truck into pedestrians in lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12 others. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Saipov was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in aid of racketeering, 12 counts of attempted murder and one count of providing material support for terrorism.

Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York, issued a statement on behalf of Ullah's family. In it, family members said they were "heartbroken by the violence that was targeted at our city today, and by the allegations being made against a member of our family."

Police block off a sidewalk while responding to a report of an explosion near Times Square on Dec. 11, 2017, in New York.
Police block off a sidewalk while responding to a report of an explosion near Times Square on Dec. 11, 2017, in New York.

Meanwhile, authorities in Bangladesh said they had located Ullah's wife and baby in Dhaka and were questioning the wife.

Ullah came to the United States under a visa program for people with relatives who are citizens or permanent residents.

President Donald Trump said Monday's attack showed the need for Congress to pass immigration reforms "to protect the American people."

"Congress must end chain migration," the president said. "The terrible harm that this flawed system inflicts on America's security and economy has long been clear. I'm determined to improve our immigration system to put our country and our people first."

Chain migration refers to the immigration of foreign nationals under laws that permit them to reunite with relatives already in the country.

Bangladesh's embassy in Washington issued a statement condemning Monday's attack.

Ramon Taylor, Asli Pelit and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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