BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The man accused of detonating a device near the Port Authority Bus Terminal during the early morning commute of Mon., Dec. 11 has been charged with five federal counts.
Prosecutors charged Akayed Ullah, 27, with the use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destruction of property by means of fire or explosive, provision of material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and the use of a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence in a criminal complaint filed in federal court on Tues., Dec. 12.
The criminal complaint sheds some light on what motivated Ullah, who, according to news reports, came from Bangladesh in 2011 and lived in Brooklyn as a legal permanent resident, to carry out an attack that created commuting chaos and caused three people to sustain minor injuries.
Ullah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the attack, according to the complaint.
“I did it for the Islamic State,” Ullah said, as cited in the complaint.
On his way to carry out the attack, the complaint states that Ullah posted on his Facebook account, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”
Ullah “chose to carry out the attack on a workday because he believed that there would be more people,” according to the complaint.
Transit video shows people walking, including Ullah who was later identified by police officers, in the underground tunnel that connects the A, C, and E trains to other lines from the Times Square station on Mon., Dec. 11 at about 7:18 a.m., according to the complaint. A few seconds later, there appears to be an explosion, and Ullah seems to fall to the ground, according to the complaint.
Members of the Port Authority Police Department found Ullah, and he was taken into custody. PAPD officers Anthony Manfredini, Jack Collins, Sean Gallagher, and Drew Preston, “entered a smoke and debris filled subway passageway, struggled with the suspect, and denied him the ability to cause further chaos and destruction,” Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement posted to the association’s Twitter account.
Law enforcement found components of an exploded pipe bomb on Ullah and in the surrounding area, a nine-volt battery inside his pants pocket, and wires connected to the battery and running underneath his jacket, according to the complaint.
At a press briefing held just after 9:30 a.m. that Monday, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the device was strapped to Ullah’s body with Velcro and zip ties.
Ullah had burns and wounds to his body and was taken to Bellevue Hospital.
Three people near the explosion sustained minor injuries — ringing in the ears and headaches — with two taking themselves to Mt. Sinai West and one to Mt. Sinai Queens, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
An FDNY spokesperson on Wed., Dec. 13 confirmed four people were injured in the attack — three with minor injuries and the suspect — but he said it was possible other people could have gone to the hospital on their own.
At Monday’s press briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio called it an “attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”
O’Neill said Ullah “intentionally detonated that device,” and had made statements concerning ISIS but declined to elaborate further at that point.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the news was “obviously very frightening and disturbing. When you hear about a bomb in the subway station, which is in many ways one of our worst nightmares, the reality turns out better than the initial expectation and fear.”
“Let’s be clear,” de Blasio noted, “as New Yorkers, our lives revolve around the subways. When we hear of an attack on the subway, it’s incredibly unsettling.”
Commuters fled after the device went off and smoke filled the passage, according to video of the event and news reports. MTA chair Joseph Lhota said at the press briefing the authority immediately shut down the A, C, and E lines. Several train lines bypassed the Times Square and 42nd St.-Port Authority stations until later that day.
After Ullah was taken to Bellevue, he waived his Miranda rights both verbally and in writing, according to the complaint. He told investigators that he had built the pipe bomb in his apartment in Brooklyn, and began gathering materials needed to make it about two to three weeks before the attack, according to the complaint. While constructing the pipe bomb he filled it with metal screws, “which he believed would cause maximum damage,” according to the complaint.
The complaint said Ullah carried out the attack in part because of US policies around the world and in the Middle East. Around 2014, he was radicalized and started viewing “pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands,” and began researching how to build an improvised explosive device on the Internet about a year ago, according to the complaint.
Law enforcement’s search of Ullah’s apartment in Brooklyn found metal pipes, pieces of wire, screws, and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights, as well as a passport in the suspect’s name with several handwritten notations that included “O America, die in your rage,” according to the complaint.
Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, read a statement on behalf of Ullah’s family Monday evening, saying, “We are heartbroken by the violence that was targeted at our city today and by the allegations being made against a member of our family.”
But they were also “outraged by the behavior of the law enforcement officials who had held children as small as four years old out in the cold and who pulled a teenager out of high school classes to interrogate him without a lawyer, without his parents.”
Cahn and the Council on American-Islamic Relations did not respond to a call and email from this publication, requesting comment.
Monday’s underground incident comes on the heels of Oct. 31’s vehicular terrorist attack on a Lower Manhattan bike path that left eight killed and 11 injured, and also echoes the Chelsea bombing of Sept. 17, 2016 (for which a federal jury on Oct. 16 of this year found Ahmad Khan Rahimi guilty of a bombing and attempted bombing on, respectively, W. 23rd and W. 27th Sts.).
“This is most resilient place on Earth, we’ve proven it time and time again,” de Blasio said. “We’ve proved it just over a month ago. We proved it on 9/11. We are going to prove it again today. The terrorists will not win, we are going keep being New Yorkers.”