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Port Authority bombing trial: Suspect taunted Trump before attack, witness says

NYPD Det. Daniel Byrne said Akayed Ullah wrote on Facebook, "O' Trump you fail to protect your nation."

Port Authority bombing suspect Akayed Ullah taunted President

Port Authority bombing suspect Akayed Ullah taunted President Trump an hour before the attack, a witness testified on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Composite: AFP / Getty Images / NYC TLC; John Roca

The man accused of detonating a pipe bomb inside a subway corridor beneath Times Square in December taunted President Donald Trump on Facebook less than an hour before the attack, a police officer testified Wednesday.

NYPD Det. Daniel Byrne said defendant Akayed Ullah wrote on Facebook, “O Trump you fail to protect your nation,” at 6:36 a.m. on Dec. 11 as he took two subway trains to reach the bombing site.

Byrne, who interviewed Ullah after the attack, said the defendant ended his Facebook post with the Arabic word "baqiah," which is frequently used by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.

Later Wednesday, an expert on Middle Eastern terrorism said "baqiah" means to "remain" or "stay," and signifies ISIS’ determination to prevail over the West.

Asked by a prosecutor in a Manhattan federal courtroom why Ullah ended his post with the Arabic term, Byrne said, “That’s how the Islamic State would know the attack was done in its name.”

A juror gasped in response.

Ullah, now 28, is accused of acting on behalf of ISIS when he made the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment, strapped it to his body and attempted to blow himself up in a narrow passageway connecting two subway stations under 42nd Street. The attack took place during the morning rush hour.

Ullah and three others were injured when he detonated the bomb, which consisted of screws, Christmas lights and a 9-volt battery. No one died in the attack.

A Bangladeshi-born immigrant, Ullah faces up to life in prison on a six-count indictment charging him with providing material support to ISIS, use of a weapon of mass destruction, committing a terror attack against a mass transportation system, and other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In his Wednesday testimony, Byrne said Ullah gave his reason for the attack.

“ ‘I did it on behalf of the Islamic State,’ ” the detective said Ullah told him. “ ‘I did it on behalf of Allah,’ ” the Arabic word for God.

The detective also testified that Ullah said he put screws in the pipe bomb “to inflict maximum damage.”

Ullah told police that he selected the subway passageway after seeing a news report in which a commuter standing there expressed no concern about a terrorist attack in New York City.

Byrne, under cross examination by Ullah’s public defender, Amy Gallicchio, acknowledged that he did not record his four-hour interview with the defendant. The interview took place as Ullah was being treated at a hospital for injuries from the explosion.

Another police officer, using his cellphone, made two videos totaling about 10 minutes, according to Byrne.

The detective told Gallicchio he took five to six pages of written notes during the interview. He testified he wrote down only four direct quotes from Ullah.

Later Wednesday, the prosecution played clips of the ISIS-produced videos found on Ullah’s computer. One clip showed an Iraqi soldier being shot by an ISIS fighter while buildings burn.

The videos helped to turn Ullah against the United States, where he has lived since 2011, and showed him how to execute a terrorist attack, according to the indictment.

However, under cross examination by another Ullah attorney, prosecution witness Aaron Zelin, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, testified that possessing ISIS videos doesn’t make someone a member of the terrorist group.

Ullah public defender Julia Gatto said “tens of thousands of online people” circulate ISIS videos as “fanboys” or “groupies” of the terrorist group, but not all have membership in ISIS.

“They are groupies of the band but not members of the band," Gatto said. "... They are on the outside looking in. Correct?”

Zelin replied, “Yes.”

The trial continues Thursday.

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