DHAKA (REUTERS, AFP) – Bangladesh police were scrambling on Tuesday (Dec 12) for details about New York subway bomber Akayed Ullah, but uncovered little about the extremist sympathiser who detonated a homemade pipe bomb in the underground.
The 27-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh set off a crude bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York subway passage on Monday but the device failed to detonate properly, leaving him the only one seriously harmed.
Ullah told police investigators he wanted to avenge US airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group and was also inspired by Christmas terror plots in Europe.
Bangladesh police are investigating whether Ullah was radicalised in his Muslim-majority homeland, where foreigners have been among those targeted in deadly assaults claimed by theISIS group and Al Qaeda.
But a probe into his background has revealed little apart from the fact Ullah did not have a criminal record and was not on a watchlist of extremist suspects.
“So far, his name is not on our wide-range list of radicalised persons or members of terror groups, both from Bangladesh and outside,” senior counter terrorism police officer Sanwar Hossain told AFP. “We are trying to gather more details,” he said.
Officials are also trying to track down his extended family and any of his known associates.
“Police are looking for his family, but so far they’ve not been able to trace them,” said Abul Khair Nadim, the chair of Musapur Union Council, a local government body in the Chittagong division in southern Bangladesh, where Ullah’s family originally lived.
Bangladesh’s police chief told Reuters late on Monday said that he last visited the country in September.
Ullah lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn and was a green card holder, said Shameem Ahsan, consul general of Bangladesh in New York.
Ahmad Ullah, a relative of Ullah, who Reuters tracked down on Tuesday, said his cousin’s father had moved to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka with his family many years ago.
He said Ullah’s father had passed away about five years ago, and that Ullah had been through a normal public school education in Bangladesh before moving to the United States.
Ullah, who had a homemade bomb strapped to his body, set off an explosion in an underground pedestrian corridor between New York’s Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal at rush hour, injuring himself and three others in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called an attempted terrorist attack.
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said investigators have found evidence that Ullah had watched Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda on the Internet.
Bangladesh strongly condemned the attack in a statement saying, “A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice.”