The taxi driver behind the failed terror attack in a New York City told investigators he meant to detonate his homemade pipe bomb in the busy subway station after seeing the walls festooned with Christmas posters – in revenge for violence against Muslims all over the world.
While initial reports suggested the crude pipe bomb, made from a pipe, a 9-volt battery, match heads, sugar, Christmas tree lights, and screws, had detonated prematurely, suspect Akayed Ullah, 27, insisted he set off the bomb deliberately.
The bombing attack at the Port Authority Bus Station subway station comes just days after Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, sparking violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Ullah, who was arrested and taken for questioning after the bomb only partially detonated, told police he was walking through the underground tunnel at 7.20am, between the Port Authority station towards Times Square, when he saw the Christmas-themed posters on the wall, which reminded him of ISIS’ calls last month for militants and lone wolves to attack holiday markets.
‘He acknowledges he purposely set it off then and there,’ a senior law enforcement official told the New York Post.
The Bangladeshi immigrant added that he was specifically inspired by ISIS, ‘not Al Qaeda’.
Authorities say that if the explosive had fully detonated in the busy Midtown Manhattan subway station, there would have been more injuries and doubtless loss of life.
The attack came days after Ullah’s Brooklyn neighbors say they heard a huge row coming from his home, reporting yelling and screaming over the past two nights. His parents have since released a statement saying they are ‘outraged’ by the allegations, and the treatment of their family since the terror attack.
Ullah, who was allowed to stop and pray multiple times during his interrogation, was taken to Bellevue Hospital to be treated for serious burns and lacerations to his abdomen and hands but is expected to survive. At the hospital, the Brooklyn resident told investigators that he was inspired to carry out the attack by the recent flare-ups between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Last week, President Trump sparked tensions between the Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians when he officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a city the two groups has been fighting over for decades.
Monday’s attack was the first terror attack on U.S. soil since that proclamation, but only one of many violent demonstrations across the world since the controversial move was announced last Wednesday. It was also the second time in two months that New York City was the target of a terrorist attack.
President Trump said in a statement that ‘lax’ immigration policies were to blame for the attack, and urged Congress to ‘enact legislative reforms to protect the American people’.
Authorities say Ullah took the A train subway to the Port Authority Bus Terminal stop Monday morning, and started walking east towards Times Square via an underground terminal when a pipe bomb hidden underneath his clothes prematurely exploded.
Law enforcement officials don’t believe the passageway was the intended target since the ‘low-tech’ bomb – attached to Ullah with Velcro and zip ties – did not explode fully.
The chemical explosive appears to have ignited but the pipe itself did not burst. Screws were found at the scene, indicating that they may have filled the pipe and were intended to be used as shrapnel.
In the end, Ullah was the only one seriously injured by the explosive (three others reported to hospitals for ringing in the ears and headaches).
Hero Port Authority Police Officers Sean Gallagher 26, a former Marine, Anthony Manfredini, 28, a former Marine bomb tech, Drew Preston, 36, a former Army soldier with three combat tours, and Jack Collins 45, an attorney, have been identified as the cops who took Ullah into custody.
It was Officer Manferdini who spotted people running out of the passageway and he was swiftly joined by his colleagues as they ran towards the explosion and witnessed Ullah, crumpled on the floor, trying to get to his cellphone. Many improvised explosive devices often use cellphones as the detonator, so he may have been trying to set off the second explosive that was found on his body.
‘The person on the floor was reaching for his cell phone. The officers at that point had to make a decision so no one else would be hurt and they decided at that point to take the person into custody,’ Bobby Egbert, spokesman for the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, told 1010 WINS. ‘There was a struggle with him, they had to keep him from reaching the cell phone, obviously, they had no idea what he was going to do with the cell phone.’
After he was arrested, Ullah was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where investigators started questioning him as he got treatment for his injuries.
Law enforcement sources who spoke to Ullah at the hospital say he confessed to plotting the attack in retribution for recent actions by Israelis against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, CNN reports. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described Ullah as ‘disgruntled’.
Also while he was at the hospital, Ullah revealed that he learned how to make explosives online and that he constructed the pipe bombs about a week ago. There are conflicting reports about whether he put the bombs together at his apartment or at his job at an electrical company where he appears work with his brother.
Records show that Ullah moved to the U.S. from Chittagong, Bangladesh in February 2011 on a F-4 visa, and is now a legal green-card owner. The FR-4 visa is a preferential visa for those who already have family in the U.S. He reportedly immigrated with his parents and three to four siblings. Ullah had recently visited his home country on September 8.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an afternoon press conference that the president is working to end such ‘chain migration’ in favor of merit-based immigration policies.
It’s still unclear what exactly Ullah did for work in electronics. He previously had a taxicab license, but let it expire in March 2015. While he doesn’t have a criminal record – either in Bangladesh or the U.S. – Ullah has been cited several times for traffic violations.
Investigators have yet to determine an official motivation for the failed attack, but there have been reports that Ullah was inspired by ISIS.
Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Ullah was inspired by the group, but not in direct contact with them. The attack is being celebrated on pro-ISIS ‘channels’.
Investigators say he watched ISIS videos and read extremist propaganda such as Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine, NBC News reported.
The magazine famously posted an article titled: ‘Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom.’
So far, officials believe that Ullah carried out the attack as a ‘lone wolf’.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the suspect ‘supposedly was setting the device off in the name of ISIS’ and that it was ‘definitely a terrorist attack, definitely intended’.
At a morning press conference, current NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said that the suspect ‘did make statements’ but that they are not going to comment on them yet.
Though it’s still early in the investigation, New York City officials say it was definitely an attempted terror attack.
‘This was an attempted terror attack and thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the largest in the country and the busiest in the world – serving about 225,000 commuters a day.
It’s what’s known by law enforcement officials as a ‘soft target’ because it handles a lot of traffic but doesn’t have the same kind of security as a place like an airport.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a bombing in the subway is ‘one of our worst nightmares’ – but he said New Yorkers will get through this as they have before on 9/11 and even the most recent terror attack on Halloween.
‘This is the New York. The reality is we are the target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy and against freedom. We have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor and that makes us an international target.
‘We understand that anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur-level explosive device and that is the reality that we live with.
‘The counter-reality is that this is New York and we all pitch together and we are a savvy people and we keep our eyes open and that’s what ‘see something, say something’ is all about. And we have the best law enforcement on the globe and we’re all working together extraordinarily well,’ Gov. Cuomo said.
Following the attack, police descended on at least three addresses connected to Ullah in Brooklyn – one in Flatlands and two in Kensington.
Ullah’s mother, father, and brother were seen being interviewed outside of one of the addresses.
His parents have since released a statement saying they are ‘outraged’ by the treatment of their family.
‘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,’ the family said in a statement read by Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for Council on American-Islamic Relations-New York.
‘But we are also outraged by the behavior of law enforcement officials who have held children as small as 4 years old out in the cold and who held a teenager out of high school classes to interrogate him without a lawyer, without his parents,’ the statement continued.
‘These are not the sorts of actions that we expect from our justice system, and we have every confidence that our justice system will find the truth behind this attack and that we will, in the end, be able to learn what occurred today.’
Police had cordoned off the block of East 48th Street in Flatlands where the alleged terrorist had been living and the bomb squad were on the scene.
Leonora Podlyashuk lives on the same floor as an apartment being searched in connection with Ullah at 679 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
She told DailyMail.com that a man, believed to be Ullah, his wife, and son, aged about 5 years, moved into the building five months ago.
The woman was pregnant at the time with their second child and has since given birth. Her baby is 2 or 3 months old.
‘The wife was pleasant, would say hello in the elevator, but I never saw any men [in the apartment],’ she said. ‘I would not have recognized him if shown a photo.’
The wife was dressed in traditional Muslim attire, she said. It is unclear if the man is Ullah or a relative.
The neighbor said some 20 police officers and FBI agents have been in the hallways since 8 am today.
Ullah was connected with another Brooklyn address on East 2nd Street. A woman who spoke on the intercom to DailyMail.com said she had ‘no comment’ about the suspect.
Alan Butrico, an owner of Locksmith hardware store on Avenue N in Marine Park, told DailyMail.com that a Bangladeshi family lives at the home the police had cordoned off.
Butrico added to CNN that Ullah lived in the basement of the building while Ullah’s brother and sister lived in the apartment above him.
‘He wasn’t friendly at all. The family was very quiet themselves. They don’t talk to anybody. They just stay there,’ Butrico said.
Burtico says that the last two nights, tenants told him that they heard ‘screaming and yelling’ coming from Ullah’s home, but they did not call the police.
Ally Mohammed, who works in the deli across the street, described the family as ‘very nice, hardworking people’. He said that the suspect’s mother came into his store and was very pleasant and that his father owned a grocery store in the area.
Mohammed said that he believed the suspect lived with his brother, sister-in-law and their child, of around four years old. He said that he believed the brother had finished college and had a job in the city.
He said he did not believe Ullah was married or had any children.
‘What he did has nothing to do with Islam, maybe he was brainwashed,’ Mohammed said
Kisslyn Joseph, 19, from Grenada, has been staying next door to the suspect’s home at her brother Kevin Alexander’s house.
She told DailyMail.com that she heard shouting from what appeared to be an argument on the phone inside the home on Sunday morning around 2 am.
She said that the argument was in English but she was unable to hear what was being said.
Other neighbors also had negative memories of Ullah.
‘He was just nasty. We would tell him to move the car, he felt like he owned it,’ the owner of a hardware store who had previously fought with Ullah told CBS News.
‘I’ve seen him in the neighborhood walking around. Pretty much looks like he always has something on his mind. Never says hello, doesn’t talk to anybody,’ one woman said.
Social worker Michael, 35, was commuting from New Jersey to Brooklyn when the chaos unfolded.
He said: ‘There were people running from various angles and screaming that someone had a gun. People were saying ‘just run, just go’. Everyone was looking around confused.
‘After a few minutes, I think I heard another person say there was an explosion and that’s when people started to panic. There was a lot of chaotic shouting and screaming. I saw a guy spring past me and as people scattered the crowd began to hurry more and push through the doors.
‘There are escalators that lead outside and steps and people were running up to get outside. We are talking 50 or 60 people. People were running over each other at one point. It became like a domino effect as everyone tried to run through the doors.
‘We got out and I ran across the street to 41st. I could hear sirens going off and people were grabbing their phones and calling home. Everyone was quite panicked and shook up.’
He added: ‘It’s scary. I’m quite on edge now.’
Video from above the ‘Crossroads of the World’ showed lines of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, lining the streets and no other vehicle traffic moving.
Everything around the Port Authority in the 42nd Street area was shut down while police investigated the bombing – a surreal scene of what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour.
A spokesman for the Port Authority says they plan to have the transit hub up and running fully by the evening rush hour.
Mayor De Blasio said getting transportation up and running again was an important message to the failed terrorist.
‘We’re not going to allow them to disrupt us. That is exactly what they what and that is exactly what they are not going to get,’ he said.
While the suspect’s motivation has not been established yet, his alleged statements about ISIS and Bangladeshi background suggest he was motivated by extreme religion.
The attack also comes on the heels of a Muslim day of rage in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, last week where thousands of Muslims protested over President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision – which breaks with decades of tradition in international policy – has drawn widespread criticism from Muslims and Christians around the world.
Previous presidents have refrained from such direct involvement in the Middle East’s historic conflict but Trump proudly waded in. Moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a campaign promise which he now boasts about fulfilling.
The Bangladesh government condemned the attack in a statement issued Monday through their embassy in Washington, DC.
‘Government of Bangladesh is committed to its declared policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning’s incident in New York City,’ she said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Monday morning that the president had been briefed on the situation.
At an afternoon press conference, Sanders released a statement on behalf of the administration – saying this morning’s incident is a further example of the need for tougher immigration policies.
‘This attack underscores the need for Congress to work with the President on immigration reforms that enhance our national security and public safety. We must protect our borders. We must ensure that individuals entering our country are not coming to do harm to our people and we must move to a merit-based system of immigration,’ she said.
She went on to say that President Trump has been fighting to end chain migration, which would have prevented an attack like this.
‘The President is certainly concerned that Congress, particularly Democrats, have failed to take action in some places where we feel we could have prevented this,’ Sanders said. ‘Specifically, the President’s policy has called for an end to chain migration and if that had been in place, that would have prevented this individual from coming to the United States.’
Monday’s explosion also comes a month after Sayfullo Saipov plowed through cyclists on the cycle path in Tribeca.
The Uzbek national killed eight people in his rented Home Depot truck by mowing them down before crashing into a school bus. He injured another 12.
Saipov, 29, who was living in Paterson, New Jersey, was gunned down by a police officer and remains in custody.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited Saipov in his statement on the latest terror attack, saying that the immigration policies that let Ullah and Saipov into the country need to end.
‘The President is exactly correct about the changes we need to our immigration system. We have now seen two terrorist attacks in New York City in less than two months that were carried out by people who came here as a result of our failed immigration policies that do not serve the national interest – the diversity lottery and chain migration. The 20-year-old son of the sister of a U.S. citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well educated, has learned English, and is likely to assimilate and flourish here.
‘It is a failure of logic and sound policy not to adopt a merit-based immigration system. The President has asked Congress to work with him on ending the diversity lottery and chain migration. He has proposed switching to a merit-based system of immigration similar to the Canadian and Australian systems. That means welcoming the best and the brightest and turning away not only terrorists but gang members, fraudsters, drunk drivers, and child abusers. Such a merit-based system would make us safer and welcome individuals who would be best able to assimilate and flourish in our country,’ Sessions said.
After the attack, the dollar lowered but stock markets recovered when the situation had been contained.
The S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq indexes rose 0.1 to 0.3 percent when the main U.S. stock markets opened two and a half hours later.
The dollar slipped as far as 113.245 yen against the Japanese currency. The Swiss franc, a refuge at times of heightened risk, reached a high of 1.16755 francs per euro…
‘We did see equities futures moving lower and it is not a surprise that we saw a move in crosses like dollar-yen,’ said CIBC’s head of currency strategy Jeremy Stretch. ‘There is a susceptibility, whenever there is a degree of uncertainty, for the usual suspects to react.’
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