‘Amateur’ bomber targets New York commuters; suspect held

NEW YORK – A Bangladeshi man with a homemade bomb strapped to his body set off an explosion at a New York commuter hub during rush hour on Monday morning, wounding himself and three others in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called an attempted terrorist attack.
The suspect in the incident in the Times Square subway station near the Port Authority Bus Terminal was Akayed Ullah, 27, the New York Police Department commissioner said.

Ullah had burns and lacerations. Three other people, including a police officer, sustained minor injuries.
The weapon was a pipe bomb that was attached to the suspect, police said. New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking at a news conference near the explosion site, described the device as “amateur-level.”

Cuomo told CNN the explosive in the pipe ignited, but the pipe itself did not explode. “So he wound up hurting himself, several others in the vicinity.” He said the attacker obtained information on how to make a bomb from the internet.

Fox News reported that the attacker made the device at his job at an electrical company and there were no known co-conspirators.

De Blasio told the news conference the incident, which happened at the start of the morning rush around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT), was “an attempted terrorist attack.”

The White House said the attack underscored the need for U.S. immigration reforms.

“We must protect out borders. We must ensure that individuals entering our country are not coming to do harm to our people. And we must move to a merit-based system of immigration,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters at a regular news briefing.

Several U.S. officials familiar with the investigation told Reuters that at this point there was no information indicating Ullah was previously known to any American spy or law enforcement agency for any connection to militants or terrorism. This did not, however, categorically rule out some such connection could be found, they said.

An authoritative U.S. government source confirmed that Ullah arrived in the United States seven years ago on a visa authorizing his entry due to the U.S. presence of family members.

New York City was a target, said John Miller, deputy police commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism. He cited the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed more than 2,750 people in New York and nearly 3,000 people in all; and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people.

Ullah is from the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong and is a U.S. resident, said the country’s police chief. He had no criminal record there and last visited Bangladesh on Sept. 8, the chief said.

Ullah had a black cab/limousine driver’s license from 2012 to 2015, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission said.

A pro-Islamic State media group, Maqdisi Media, portrayed the attempted terror attack as a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition on Wednesday of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. SITE tracks and analyzes online activity by extremist groups.
However, CNN, citing a law enforcement source, reported that Ullah told investigators recent Israeli actions in Gaza were the reason he carried out the attack.

The incident occurred less than two months after an Uzbek immigrant killed eight people by speeding down a New York City bike path in a rental truck, in an attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.

In September 2016, a man injured 31 people when he set off a homemade bomb in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Monday’s incident was captured on security video, police said. Video posted on NYPost.com showed smoke and a man lying in a long tunnel that connects sections of the sprawling Times Square subway station. A photograph showed a man lying facedown, with tattered clothes and burns on his torso.
”There was a stampede up the stairs to get out,“ said one commuter, Diego Fernandez. ”Everybody was scared and running and shouting.”

The bus terminal was temporarily closed and a large swath of midtown Manhattan was closed to traffic. Subway travel was disrupted but later returned to normal.

In December, New York experiences a surge of visitors who come to see elaborate store window displays, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and Broadway shows.

Alicja Wlodkowski, a Pennsylvania resident in New York for the day, was sitting in a restaurant in the bus terminal.

“Suddenly, I saw a group of people, like six people, running like nuts. A woman fell. No one even went to stop and help her because the panic was so scary.”
More than 200,000 people use the Times Square station, the city’s busiest, each weekday, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Ten train lines stop at the station.

The bus terminal is the busiest in the United States, according to the Port Authority. On a typical weekday, about 220,000 passengers arrive or depart on more than 7,000 buses.

The bus terminal is adjacent to and above the subway station’s western section. A long, narrow underground tunnel connects that part of the station to its eastern section, and is used by thousands of commuters during rush hour. Buskers and other entertainers at entrances to the tunnel often draw crowds.

The incident rippled through American financial markets, briefly weakening stock markets as they were starting trading for the week and giving a modest lift to safe-haven assets such as U.S. Treasuries.

Technology and energy stocks gained in afternoon trading, helping Wall Street shake off uncertainties following the explosion.
Source: Reuters

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