Suspect in New York City pipe bomb attack arraigned

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News coverage: Explosion at Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC
News coverage: Explosion at Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The suspect in Monday's attempted suicide bombing in Manhattan was arraigned Wednesday.

Burned over his torso and arms, accused terrorist Akayed Ullah was in no condition to walk into court, so he made his initial appearance before a federal judge on a video monitor from his hospital bed. There was a bed sheet up to his neck that concealed physical signs of his condition.

Ullah peered straight into the camera with no discernible emotion, speaking softly when he affirmed he could see the judge and saying, "Yes I have" when asked whether he had seen the complaint that charges him with five federal terrorism counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.

The charges carry the possibility of life in prison, as Ullah is not eligible for the death penalty because no deaths resulted from his alleged crimes.

He was ordered held until his next court date January 13

Separately, MTA chief Joe Lhota confirmed today Ullah's movements through the subway Monday morning were captured on security cameras.

"We saw him getting on a train in Brooklyn, we saw him transfer," he said. "There was nothing untoward."

Nobody knew that for nearly an hour, Ullah was allegedly on the train with a crudely made pipe bomb strapped to his chest with Velcro and zip ties. The charging document said law enforcement personnel found a 9-volt battery inside Ullah's pants pocket, wires connected to the battery running under his jacket and fragments of metal pipe. There was also a remnant of what appeared to be a Christmas tree light bulb attached to the wires.

According to the document, Ullah made statements indicating he "was inspired by ISIS to carry out" the attack. He said: "I did it for the Islamic State."

Related: What we know about terror suspect Akayed Ullah

Ullah built the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn residence a week before the attack and began compiling materials two to three weeks earlier, investigators said. He filled the bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage. On Facebook the morning of the attack, authorities say Ullah posted a statement: "Trump you failed to protect your nation."

"Three years ago Mr. Allah headed down a path of radicalization, viewing pro-ISIS materials online," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney. "One year ago he began researching how to build improvised explosive devices online. As New York City commuters resigned themselves to their Monday morning commute, they became the unwitting victims of one of the final chapters of his story."

According to the charges, one of Ullah's goals was to terrorize as many people as possible, and he chose to carry out the attack on a workday because he believed that there would be more people.

"As thousands came into New York City through the Port Authority Bus Terminal, one man came with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose," Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said.

Kim said a search of Ullah's Brooklyn apartment revealed metal pipes, pieces of wires and metal screws consistent with the bomb materials recovered at the scene.

The suspect "was an individual who flew below the radar, did not give us any indication, and he committed this act," NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said.

While his pipe bomb was not ultimately successful, "he did follow some of the instructions that you can find readily online, unfortunately, to create such a device. A Christmas light bulb is one of those components," Waters said.

The explosion happened in the passageway between subway lines that runs a full city block under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. But the bomb was not packed tightly enough and failed to detonate, only blowing the ends of the pipe. Because it was strapped to Ullah, the assumption is that he had been prepared to die a suicide bomber.

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Police secure Eighth Avenue outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal following an explosion near New York's Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
AP Photo/Chuck Zoeller

Ullah is from Bangladesh and has been in the United States for seven years. He came to the U.S. on an F-4 visa, a preferential visa available for those with family in the U.S. who are citizens or permanent residents.

RELATED: Experts call attempted suicide attack a game-changer

It was the first bomb blast in the subway in more than two decades. The last bomb to go off in the subway system was believed to be in December 1994, when an explosive made from mayonnaise jars and batteries wounded 48 people in a car in lower Manhattan.


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