US unveils terror charges against New York 'subway bomber'
New York (AFP)
The United States on Tuesday unveiled federal terrorism charges against the Bangladeshi driver accused of detonating a bomb in the New York subway after being inspired by the Islamic State extremist group and self-radicalizing as early as 2014.
Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, was hit with a five-count indictment, which includes providing material support to IS and use of weapons of mass destruction, according to a 10-page complaint released on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear when he would appear before a judge. Ullah has been held in a hospital after wounding himself and three other people at the Port Authority bus terminal, close to iconic Times Square, on Monday.
The explosion, which sowed panic and disrupted the morning commute during New York's busy Christmas tourism season, came six weeks after another immigrant, also reportedly inspired by the Islamic State extremist group, killed eight people on a bike path.
Ullah wanted to avenge US policies in the Middle East, building the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment with metal screws and Christmas tree lights a week before the attack, according to the complaint.
En route to carrying out the attempted attack, he allegedly posted on Facebook, "Trump you failed to protect your nation," in an apparent reference to the US president.
But his bomb failed to detonate as planned, leaving him with burns to his torso and hands, officials said. The three others suffered minor complaints such as ringing in their ears and headaches.
Ullah moved to the United States in 2011 and lived most recently in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, home to a sizeable Bangladeshi immigrant community.
According to the complaint, his radicalization began in 2014, years after his move to the United States, with watching IS propaganda online before he started to research how to make bombs online a year ago.
But he radicalized under the radar, his name never appearing on any watch lists. Ullah was not previously known to law enforcement in either the United States or his impoverished, Muslim-majority homeland, officials said.
- Wife questioned -
In Bangladesh, counter-terrorism officers questioned his 25-year-old wife, whom he married in 2016 and visited in September after the birth of their son, officials said.
Police raided the family home in Dhaka, but neither Ullah's wife, Jannatul Ferdous Piya, nor her father are under any suspicion, officer Saiful Islam told AFP.
Mofazzal Hossain, caretaker of the family apartment in Dhaka, described him as "pious and a gentleman."
"He used to pray in the local mosque five times a day. He would urge us to pray and do good work," Hossain told AFP.
Dhaka police were investigating whether he could have been radicalized in Bangladesh, which is waging its own war against extremism and where IS claimed an assault in July 2016 that killed 22 hostages, 18 of them foreigners.
President Donald Trump, who has clamped down on immigration since taking office in January, on Monday called for tougher US immigration rules, saying the current policy allows "far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country."
He has called for the elimination of programs that allowed Ullah and bike path attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov to move to the United States, and move to a merit-based immigration policy.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a strident Trump critic, said the president's criticism was misplaced, stressing that Ullah would not have been allowed into the country if his sponsors were not of "good standing."
The family issued a statement through the Council on American-Islamic Relations saying they were "heartbroken" by the attack and the allegations against Ullah.
The New York Times reported that Ullah appears to have prayed regularly at the Masjid Nur Al Islam mosque, and from 2012 to 2015, held a license to drive for-hire vehicles.
A businessman neighbor told the newspaper that he had unpleasant encounters with Ullah in recent years, largely about parking and complaints that his family used to block the driveway.
© 2017 AFP