NEW YORK • A Bangladeshi man accused of setting off a bomb in a crowded Manhattan commuter hub has been charged in US federal court.
Akayed Ullah, 27, was charged yesterday in Manhattan federal court with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organisation, using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a public place, destruction of property by means of explosive, and use of a destructive device.
The attack on Monday left Ullah with burns to his body and hands, and three pedestrians with harmed hearing and headaches.
The criminal complaint filed against Ullah says he told the authorities he "did it for the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria)", or ISIS. He had, according to the complaint, posted on his Facebook account on Monday: "Trump you failed to protect your nation."
Ullah was expected to appear before a magistrate judge. It was not immediately clear who would represent him in court.
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 did not provide details on the questioning, but said the couple have a six-month-old baby boy.
"We have found his wife and in-laws in Dhaka. We are interviewing them," one of the police officials told Reuters.
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 during rush hour on Monday morning. He is believed to have acted alone and chosen the spot for the explosion for its Christmas-themed posters.
According to several law enforcement officials, Ullah said he set off the bomb in retaliation against US air strikes in Syria and elsewhere, targeting ISIS members.
He told investigators that he began the process of self-radicalisation in 2014 when he began viewing pro-ISIS materials online and had made a number of trips overseas in the past five years, visiting Bangladesh in recent months, one of the officials said.
Ullah admitted he had looked up online how to build the bomb and had assembled it in his residence in Brooklyn about one week before the attack. He began compiling the materials that he used to construct the bomb about two or three weeks ago, he told investigators. He purchased all of them except the pipe, which he said he found at a job site where he was working as an electrician in Manhattan, two of the officials said.
Immigration officials said Ullah arrived in the US from Bangladesh in 2011 on a family immigrant visa and has lived in Brooklyn ever since as a legal permanent resident.
According to the terms of his visa, Ullah was the nephew of a US citizen and benefited from what the officials called "extended family chain migration".
Real estate records show Ullah lived in a small, two-storey brick-faced house.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Bangladesh began to track down Ullah's family soon after news of the attack broke, and they first found a cousin. The cousin, Emdad Ullah, told Reuters that Ullah and his family originally lived in the Chittagong region in southern Bangladesh, but had moved to the capital Dhaka years ago. Ullah married a Bangladeshi woman about two years ago and she lived in Dhaka, the cousin said, adding that Ullah was educated in Bangladesh before he moved to the US.
Bangladesh's police chief told Reuters on Monday that Ullah had no criminal record in his home country, which he last visited in September.
Bangladesh strongly condemned the attack. "A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice," the government said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump on Monday said the attack emphasised the need for US immigration reforms. "America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country," he said in a statement.