- Four total injuries reported in blast on subway near Port Authority
- 27-year-old Akayed Ullah named by police as suspect
A 27-year-old man was in custody on Monday after allegedly detonating a pipe bomb in a New York City subway station during the morning commute.
The suspect, Akayed Ullah, was one of four people injured in the explosion, which occurred at about 7.20am in a passageway near 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, in midtown Manhattan near Times Square, New York City police said.
None of the injuries were life-threatening. Daniel Nigro, the fire department commissioner, said Ullah sustained burns to his hands and torso while the three other people suffered “ringing ears and headaches”.
At a press conference, New York police commissioner James O’Neill said the suspect had “an improvised low-tech explosive device attached to his body” with Velcro and zip ties. Law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press the short pipe was packed with explosive powder and was ignited with a Christmas light, matches and a nine-volt battery. But the blast was not powerful enough to turn the pipe into deadly shrapnel.
The New York Times, citing several law enforcement officials, reported that Ullah said he had been radicalized online and had acted in retaliation for US airstrikes in Syria and elsewhere against the Islamic State, or Isis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “This was an attempted terrorist attack.” He also said there were “no known additional incidents or activities” but said there would be an increased police presence in the city. The attack is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, said an attack on the subway was “very frightening and disturbing” and “in many ways, one of our worst nightmares”.
“This is New York,” Cuomo said. “The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom. We have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor. Anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness, how to put together an amateur level explosive device, and that is the reality we live with.
“The counter-reality is that this is New York and we all pitch together, and we are a savvy people and we keep our eyes open … and we have the best law enforcement in the globe.”
On Monday night, Ullah’s family said in statement that it was heartbroken and deeply saddened by the suffering the attack had caused. The statement was released on behalf of the family by Albert Fox Cahn, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York.
(July 4, 2002) Los Angeles International Airport
Hesham Muhammad Hadayet, an Egyptian national with a green card giving him permanent status in the United States, killed two people and wounded four at Los Angeles International Airport. Hadayet also died.
(June 1, 2009) Little Rock, Arkansas
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American-born convert to Islam, opened fire on an army recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas. Muhammad killed one soldier and wounded another. Muhammad, who previously lived in Yemen, claimed to be a member of al-Qaida. Muhammad eventually pled guilty to avoid the death penalty.
(November 5, 2009) Fort Hood, Texas
Army major Nidal Hasan opened fire in the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas. The American-born Hasan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 32. Hasan was paralyzed in the attack. At his trial, he declared himself to be at war with America and investigators found that although he acted alone, he had accessed jihadist websites. Hasan was sentenced to death and is currently incarcerated in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
(April 15, 2013) Boston Marathon bombing
The Boston Marathon attack was carried out by two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The bomb killed three people and injured 264. The two later killed an MIT police officer. In addition, in a firefight between the brothers and the police, 16 officers were injured and another later died. Tamerlan died after he was shot by police and his brother ran over him in a car in an attempt to escape. Dzhokhar was apprehended and sentenced to death. The two Kyrgyz-American immigrants had been self-radicalized but learned to make their bomb from the al-Qaida online magazine Inspire.
(July 16, 2015) Navy reserve center
Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked a marine recruiting office and US Navy reserve center. He killed four marines and one seaman before police killed him. Abdulazeez was an American citizen born in Kuwait. Former FBI director James Comey said Abdulazeez was “motivated by foreign terrorist organization propaganda.”
(December 15, 2015) San Bernandino
Syed Rizwan Farook and Tasheen Malik opened fire at the San Bernandino County Department of Public Health. Fourteen people died and 24 were injured. Farook was born in the United States and Malik was a Pakistani immigrant. The two were killed by police. The FBI described them as “homegrown violent extremists”.
(June 12, 2016) Pulse nightclub
American-born Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 58 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In calls made during his rampage, Mateen pledged allegiance to Isis. He was killed by police.
(October 31, 2017) New York truck attack
A man drove a truck into people on the Hudson River bike path, killing eight and injuring 11. Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, has pleaded not guilty to murder.
The statement also said the family was outraged by some of law enforcement’s tactics, including pulling a teenage relative from class and questioning him without a parent, guardian or attorney present.
As he had after the last terrorist attack in New York, Donald Trump used the incident to call for tougher immigration measures.
“As I have been saying since I first announced my candidacy for president, America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Trump said, issuing a formal statement rather than using his favored medium of Twitter.
“Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security. My executive action to restrict the entry of certain nationals from eight countries, which the supreme court recently allowed to take effect, is just one step forward in securing our immigration system. Congress must end chain migration.”
The suspect, of Bangladeshi origin, was being treated at Bellevue hospital. Police said there was video of the attempted attack. Asked if the suspect was connected to the Islamic State terror group, O’Neill said the suspect “did make statements” but did not elaborate.
Police were investigating Brooklyn properties connected to Ullah or his relatives shortly after the attempted attack. In the quiet residential neighborhood of Kensington, witnesses said they had seen a Swat team enter a six-story building.
The subway station where the blast happened is below Port Authority bus terminal, the busiest in the world, serving at least 65 million passengers each year. On Monday morning, nearby Times Square and its surroundings were overwhelmed by police. The area would usually be packed with commuters and tourists.
The explosion occurred less than two months after a man drove a truck into a bicycle lane on Manhattan’s west side, killing eight people. The suspect pleaded not guilty to 22 counts including providing material support to the Islamic State group.
On Monday, travellers reacted with bemusement, relief and some humor. Danny Nguyen, 24, heard the explosion while he waited for a bus home to Philadelphia. He said police ran into the station. “I saw a mom trying to take her daughter up the elevator the wrong way, just panicking,” he said.
Tina Grimes, 38, was supposed to be on a bus to Boston. She said she was going to make the best of her extra time in New York. “It’s too cold to walk around,” she said. “Maybe I’ll go shopping or something.”
Barbara Petro had been due to return to Columbia, Maryland. She said the incident would not put her off visiting New York again, but was disappointed because “my granddaughter is singing in a Christmas performance as an angel tonight, and I don’t think I’ll make it”.
The attack interrupted nearly every subway line and some trains were evacuated, putting even more strain on a subway system that has been heavily criticized for long delays and frequent train breakdowns.
Many New Yorkers were unfazed. Shaun Henderson was on the F train after the explosion and said he was just happy the trains were working, even if he was going to be late for work.
“It’s the subway, you know,” Henderson said. “New Yorkers are used to this. The F train doesn’t need a pipe bomb to be fucked up.”
Hours after the explosion, the subway system had almost completely resumed normal service. Though witnesses described panic immediately after the explosion, shortly after the attack the scene was calm.
Additional reporting by Adam Gabbatt, Oliver Laughland, Alan Yuhas and the Associated Press