Federal Terrorism Charges Filed Against Manhattan Subway Bombing Suspect

Dec 12, 2017
Originally published on December 12, 2017 9:10 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal terrorism charges against the man accused of detonating a homemade pipe bomb in Manhattan yesterday. Three people suffered minor injuries. NPR's Joel Rose has more on the charges against the man who is an immigrant from Bangladesh.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Christmas tree lights, a 9-volt battery and a metal pipe are a few of the materials prosecutors say Akayed Ullah used to build the crude bomb he strapped to his body and then detonated in a crowded underground corridor near the Port Authority bus terminal during Monday morning rush hour.

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JOON KIM: The location and timing of his planned attack was no accident, and his motivation was no mystery.

ROSE: Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim announced federal charges against Ullah at a press conference today in Manhattan. According to the criminal complaint, Ullah told investigators he, quote, "did it for the Islamic State," unquote, in part because of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Kim says he was radicalized by watching Islamic State propaganda videos online.

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KIM: Ullah admitted that he began researching how to build bombs about a year ago and had been planning this particular attack for several weeks. He allegedly selected the location and timing to maximize human casualties.

ROSE: Luckily, his plan failed. Ullah was arrested and treated for burns and lacerations. He's charged with providing material support to terrorists, using weapons of mass destruction and three other federal counts. Prosecutors say Ullah posted to his Facebook account on Monday, Trump, you fail to protect your nation. Now the Trump administration is seizing on the failed terror attack to call for changes to U.S. immigration policy.

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FRANCIS CISSNA: What we need is an immigration system that is selective.

ROSE: Francis Cissna is the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security. Speaking at the White House press briefing today, he pushed for an end to so-called chain migration based on family relationships and also to the diversity visa program, the so-called visa lottery.

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CISSNA: Random lotteries, extended family connections - that's not the way to run our immigration system.

ROSE: Cissna says both programs helped Akayed Ullah come to the U.S. with his family in 2011. And he says they're too easy for terrorists to exploit. But it's not clear what, if anything, that has to do with Ullah. Prosecutors in New York say he was radicalized after he came to the U.S. around 2014. Ullah's family has not spoken to reporters, but they did release a statement through a spokesman. Albert Cahn is a lawyer at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York.

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ALBERT CAHN: The family's heartbroken by this attack and about the allegations that are being made against one of their family members.

ROSE: Cahn declined to comment on those allegations against Ullah or whether the family knew about the attack he'd allegedly been planning for weeks. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.