Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old man from Bangladesh, has been charged with carrying out the failed bombing in Manhattan yesterday. He acted in the name of the so-called caliphate, according to a complaint filed this morning.
“I did it for the Islamic State,” Ullah allegedly told authorities after he was arrested.
Some of the details cited in the complaint are similar to the facts that have emerged after previous Islamic State-linked or inspired attacks.
Ullah’s “radicalization began” in 2014, according to the complaint. He “viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands.”
That message has been a consistent theme in the Islamic State’s propaganda. Indeed, the group’s first spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, repeatedly implored followers in the West to strike inside their home countries. In Sept. 2014, for instance, Adnani instructed sympathizers to kill citizens of Western countries “in any manner or way however it may be.” It is a message that has been repeated by the group many times since then and aspiring jihadists throughout Western countries have heeded the call. For instance, Adnani’s call to arms was found in a notebook that belonged to Ahmad Khan Rahami, a jihadist who planted bombs in New York City and New Jersey in Sept. 2016.
On the morning of his attack, Ullah allegedly “posted a statement on his Facebook account” in which he stated: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”
“Ullah also posted a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS,” the complaint reads.
This, too, is consistent with prior attacks by Islamic State supporters. For example, the couple responsible for the Dec. 2015 pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in a Facebook post on the morning of their shooting.
Ullah allegedly “began compiling the materials he used to construct the Pipe Bomb approximately two to three weeks before carrying out the attack.” And he began building the explosive device in his Brooklyn residence about one week prior to striking in midtown Manhattan. Although Ullah assembled the bomb only recently, he “began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year ago.”
The pipe bomb appears to have been a crude device. Officials found that Ullah packed a “metal pipe … with explosive material that he created.” He also allegedly used “used Christmas tree lights, wiring, and a nine-volt battery to cause the detonation of the Pipe Bomb.” The device was filled “with metal screws,” which Ullah “believed would cause maximum damage.” And he “used zip ties to secure the Pope Bomb to his body.”
Ullah is not the first ISIS-inspired or connected terrorist to target Times Square.
In October, authorities unsealed the charges against three men who allegedly plotted to detonate “bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system” and also discussed “shooting civilians at specific concert venues.” The men planned to build car bombs and one of their designs involved using Christmas lights. Ullah’s pipe bomb relied on the holiday decoration.
The complaint also cites footage recorded by a closed circuit television camera. Two screen shots from the footage (seen below) — one minutes before the bombing and one right after — allegedly show Ullah walking among the crowd. Ullah sought “to terrorize as many people as possible” and he “chose to carry out the attack on a workday because he believed that there would be more people,” according to complaint.
Fortunately, several people received only minor wounds.
Screenshots from closed circuit television footage of Ullah’s bombing (before and after):
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