NEW YORK (REUTERS) – US prosecutors on Tuesday (Dec 12) brought federal charges against the suspect in Monday’s (Dec 11) attempted suicide bombing in one of New York City’s busiest commuter hubs, accusing him of supporting a foreign terrorist organisation.
Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi and self-described supporter of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was also charged in a criminal complaint filed in US district court in Manhattan with bombing a public place, destruction of property by means of explosive and use of a destructive device.
Ullah planned to “murder as many human beings as he could ... in support of a vicious terrorist cause,” acting US attorney Joon Kim told a news conference after filing the charges.
New York police say Ullah set off a pipe bomb in an underground corridor of the subway system that connects Times Square to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at rush hour on Monday morning, injuring himself and three others.
He told police interviewers after the blast that “I did it for the Islamic State,” according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors.
Ullah began the process of self-radicalisation in 2014 when he began viewing pro-Islamic State materials online and carried out his attack because he was angry over US policies in the Middle East, prosecutors said.
New York officials on Tuesday also filed state charges against Ullah, as investigators in his home country questioned his wife.
Ullah was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, supporting an act of terrorism, and making a terroristic threat under New York state law, the New York Police Department said.
The federal charges, which are expected to take precedence over the state charges, carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Ullah remains in the hospital. His first appearance in the case will likely be there either later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
On the morning of the attack, Ullah posted on his Facebook page, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”
Ullah’s passport, which was recovered from his home, had handwritten notes, including one that read, “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”
Investigators at the scene found a nine-volt battery inside Ullah’s pants pocket, as well as fragments from a metal pipe and the remnants of what appeared to be a Christmas tree light bulb attached to wires.
Ullah told investigators he built the bomb at his Brooklyn home one week before the attack, filling the pipe with metal screws to maximise damage. He chose a workday to target as many people as possible.
Investigators in Bangladesh were questioning Ullah’s wife, according to two officials who declined to be identified as they were not permitted to discuss the matter publicly. They said the couple have a six-month-old baby boy.
A police official who took part in that interview, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak publicly, said the wife told investigators that Ullah had never prayed regularly before he moved to the United States.
New York police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were leading the investigation into Ullah in conjunction with other agencies through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and were asking the public for any information about the suspect.
Investigators are poring through data on Ullah’s electronic devices, said a law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity. Assistant FBI director in charge William Sweeney said, there is so far no indication that Ullah attracted attention of FBI before.
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.
US President Donald Trump said again on Tuesday that the attack emphasised the need for US immigration reforms.
Monday’s incident occurred less than two months after an Uzbek immigrant killed eight people by speeding a rental truck down a New York City bike path, in an attack for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
“There have now been two terrorist attacks in New York City in recent weeks carried out by foreign nationals here on green cards,” Trump said. “The first attacker came through the visa lottery the second came through chain migration. We’re going to end both of them.”
The US Supreme Court last week allowed Trump’s latest travel ban, targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries, to go into full effect even as legal challenges continued in lower courts.
The ban covers people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seeking to enter the United States.
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by Islamist militants. Bangladesh is not among the countries affected by the ban.