Federal authorities file terrorism charges against Manhattan bombing suspect
Federal prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against the suspected New York City subway bomber, Akayed Ullah, saying he proclaimed "I did it for the Islamic State'' after the attack in a tunnel beneath Times Square.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan charges Ullah, 27, with providing material support to a terror group, using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a public place, destruction of property by means of fire or explosive, and use of a destructive device during a crime of violence.
Police say he detonated a pipe bomb affixed to his clothes while walking down a crowded commuter tunnel in Times Square during the Monday, Dec. 11, morning rush hour.
The 10-page criminal complaint also reveals some of what Ullah told investigators after the attack. While he was in Bellevue Hospital receiving treatment for his injuries, Ullah declared he acted on behalf of Islamic State, and investigators found a passport in his name with handwritten notations, including: "O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE,'' according to the complaint.
Those statements are just a fraction of the incriminating comments Ullah has made to investigators, according to law enforcement officials.
Ullah also told police he was angry about decades of U.S. policies toward Muslim countries, officials said. Investigators believe Ullah built the bomb at his home and used Christmas lights and a battery to detonate the device, according to the complaint.
Shortly before the federal charges were announced, New York City police officials said they had filed state terrorism charges against him, though those are expected to be dropped once the federal prosecution gets underway, according to officials.
When his homemade bomb exploded, it did far more damage to the would-be suicide bomber than anyone else in the station, according to officials. Three commuters suffered minor injuries, police said. Security video from the subway tunnel shows a man walking down the passageway who is suddenly knocked to the ground by a blast emanating from his lower torso. The video shows other commuters running from the scene.
Ullah's family issued a statement saying they are "heartbroken by this attack on our city today," but also criticizing law enforcement's treatment of the family.
"Today we have seen our children, as young as four years old, held out in the cold, detained as their parents were questioned," the family said in its statement, which was released through the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York. "One teenage relative was pulled out of high school classes and interrogated without a lawyer, without his parents. These are not the actions that we expect from our judicial system."
Officials said Ullah came to the United States on a type of visa for relatives of people already living legally in the country. President Donald Trump said the incident was another example of why the United States needs to curb immigration.
"Today's attempted mass murder attack in New York City - the second terrorist attack in New York in the last two months - once again highlights the urgent need for Congress to enact legislative reforms to protect the American people," the president said in a statement released Monday. "America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country. Today's terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security."
He also said that people convicted of terrorism charges "deserve the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also weighed in, saying "the 20-year-old son of the sister of a U.S. citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well-educated, has learned English, and is likely to assimilate and flourish here.''
New York officials said the city was lucky that the suspect was not a better bomb-maker.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, D, called the attacker's weapon a "low-tech device," saying: "Anyone can go on the Internet and download garbage and vileness and how to put together an amateur-level explosive device, and that is the reality that we live with. The counter-reality is that this is New York and we all pitch together and we are a savvy people."
John Miller, who leads the NYPD's counterterrorism work, said terror threats are "a fact of life, whether you're in New York or London or Paris. The question is can it happen here, and the answer is it can happen anywhere."
Miller said investigators have collected remnants of the bomb to better understand its construction. He said Ullah used Velcro and zip-ties to attach the device to his clothing. The NYPD and the FBI appealed for any witnesses to the explosion to come forward, and said commuters should expect to see additional security around the city's transportation network.Stories by Devlin Barrett. Barrett writes about national security and law enforcement for The Post. He has previously worked at the Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, and the New York Post, where he started as a copy boy.