Terror Charges Leveled Against Suspect in Times Square Bombing

From left to right, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim; Bill Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office; and Benjamin Tucker, first deputy commissioner with the New York City Police Department. (JOSH RUSSELL, Courthouse News Service)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges Tuesday against the 27-year-old they say strapped a pipe bomb to his chest in a botched attack near a bus terminal at New York City’s Port Authority.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim told reporters at a 20-minute press conference this afternoon that the suspect, Akayed Ullah, executed his attack with “a hate-filled heart and evil purpose” on behalf of the “vicious terrorist cause” of ISIS, otherwise known as the Islamic State group.

“The location and time was no accident and his motivation was no mystery,” Kim said before running down the five federal charges in the 10-page complaint.

Ullah is charged with providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destruction of public property by means of fire or explosive, and use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Prosecutors said the Bangladesh immigrant intended to carry out a suicide bombing to “maximize human casualties.”

Kim called the Port Authority “gateway to the city for hundreds of thousands of commuters everyday.”

Though no one else was seriously injured from the explosion, Ullah is still recovering at Bellevue Hospital from injuries the bomb caused him.

The complaint notes that Ullah waived his Miranda rights at the hospital and spoke to interrogators about a threat he posted on Facebook before the explosion at morning rush hour Monday. “Trump you failed to protect your nation,” the post said.

Ullah’s improvised pipe bomb was allegedly held together with plastic zip ties and contained metal screws as shrapnel and Christmas tree lights for electrical wiring.

Bill Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, noted these types of bombs are comprised of “basic components found in your average hardware store.”

Authorities said a search of Ullah’s home in Borough Park, Brooklyn, recovered metal pipes, Christmas tree light wire fragments and multiple screws consistent with screws found at the Port Authority tunnel crime scene.

Investigators also found a passport with the handwritten notation “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE,” according to the complaint.

Ullah is expected to make a bedside court presentment by video conference from the hospital later today or Wednesday.

An active investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force corroborates the claim that Ullah’s radicalization from online ISIS propaganda began in 2014, Sweeney said.

Ullah allegedly told investigators that he began researching how to make bombs a year ago, started collecting bomb-making material two to three weeks ago, and constructed the bomb itself one week before the attack.

“Like many others before him, we allege he was inspired by a group that exploits technology in an effort to spread a violent ideology, effectively convincing sympathizers to work with them to commit terrorist acts around the globe,” Sweeney said at the press conference.

Stressing the importance of an engaged public as a tool for the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Sweeney urged New Yorkers to be aware of their surroundings, particularly in the throes of the brisk holiday seasons. “We’re simply asking those of you who do not already do so to look up from your phone, maybe take out one of your ear buds out and pay attention to what’s happening around you, perhaps even engage with your fellow citizen,” he said.

The government’s complaint was sworn before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker in Manhattan.

If convicted of all five counts, Ullah faces potential life sentence and a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison. 

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