A Bangladeshi immigrant is in custody after an explosive vest he was wearing detonated and injured four people, including himself, during the height of rush hour Monday morning near New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal.
The blast went off in an underground tunnel at 7:20 a.m. near 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, two blocks from Times Square, police said.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said at a 9:45 a.m. press conference that the suspect has been identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, who detonated a “low tech device” attached to his body with Velcro and zip ties.
Ullah had entered the country in 2011 on an F-43 visa, which gives preference to immigrants who already have family living in the U.S. He is not a U.S. citizen but is living here legally on a green card.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, tweeted that the F-43 is basically a “nephew visa” for a foreign national seeking to enter the U.S.
The Bangladeshi jihadist came on what amounts to a “nephew visa” – F43 visa, for the under-21 child of a person getting a green card because he/she is the sibling of a US citizen. #ChainMigration
— Mark Krikorian (@MarkSKrikorian) December 11, 2017
President Trump blamed the attack on our “lax” immigration system that “allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country.”
“The terrible harm that this flawed system inflicts on America’s security and economy has long been clear,” Trump said in a White House statement. “I am determined to improve our immigration system to put our country and our people first.”
Trump also called on Congress to end chain migration and described the family-based method that brought the suspect to the U.S. as “incompatible with national security.”
“Today’s attempted mass murder attack in New York City — the second terror 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.
Ullah sustained serious burns to his abdomen and hands but was speaking to investigators at the Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
Three civilians in close proximity to Ullah when his pipe bomb exploded were treated for minor injuries.
The suspect’s name, Akayed Ullah, means “Allah’s doctrine enforcer” in Arabic, a native Arabic speaker told WND.
He lived in Brooklyn and worked previously as a New York City cab driver but reportedly made the bomb at his current place of employment, an electrical shop.
According to the New York Times, Ullah attended Masjid Nar al-Islam in Kensington, Brooklyn, and “prayed regularly, especially during Ramadan,” and “was close to the mosque’s imam” whom he was often seen with at afternoon prayers.
“This was an attempted terrorist attack,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference.
Chain migration nightmare
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country in Asia.
Krikorian said there are about 175,000 Bangladeshis on the State Department’s immigrant visa waiting list, and 94 percent of them are in the siblings’ chain migration category.
Trump in October called for an end to the process of “chain migration” under which an unlimited number of migrants can enter America based on a single green-card holder who came before them. These migrants typically breeze through the process with only light screening, just as the fiancee of San Berdardino jihadist Syed Farooq came from Saudi Arabia and helped him mow down 14 Americans at an office Christmas party two years ago.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told MSNBC his sources in the department said the suspect admitted to carrying out the attack for ISIS.
Four officers with the Port Authority police took down the suspected bomber at gunpoint, according to statements made at the police press conference.
The blast came at a time when the area was packed with commuters and holiday tourists. New York City is still on edge from a terror attack six weeks ago that claimed eight lives when a Muslim migrant from Uzbekistan, who entered the country on a “diversity lottery” visa, rented a truck from Home Depot and crashed it into a crowd of pedestrians on a bike path.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at the press conference this morning, said New Yorkers should not be surprised by continued terror attacks on their city.
“This is New York. The reality is we are a target. There are people who target us for or freedom and democracy,” Cuomo said. “We have the Statue of Liberty in our Harbor, and that makes us a target.”
He also blamed the attack on “the Internet,” saying “anyone can download garbage” and learn how to make a bomb.
“That’s what ‘see something say something’ is all about,” Cuomo added.
“We’ll go back to work. We are not going to allow them to disrupt us,” he said. “That’s exactly what they want, and that’s exactly what they’re not going to get.”
De Blasio said no other credible threat existed against the city “at this time” but the city would remain on high alert with an expanded police presence throughout the day.
When asked about Ullah’s ISIS contacts, O’Neill said, “We’re not going to talk about that right now.”
How he got here and why he attacked
There were reports that Ullah had no formal ties to ISIS but may have been inspired by the terror group.
Ullah told authorities in sum and substance from his hospital bed: “They’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here,” sources told the New York Post.
The U.S. is not doing any bombing in Bangladesh, but Ullah presumably was referring to the Islamic State, which has seen its strongholds in Iraq and Syria crushed since President Trump took office.
Authorities said Ullah migrated to the U.S. on a F-43 visa, a family-based visa for those who have relatives already in the U.S.
The Uzbek migrant Sayfullo Saipov who killed eight people in a truck attack on New York just two months ago, came to the U.S. through a diversity visa lottery program and had 23 family members follow him here in another case of chain migration.
Bangladeshis have been migrating to the U.S. since 1974 and have formed large ethnic enclaves in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, New York-New Jersey, Chicago, Boston, Florida, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Hamtramck and Detroit.
Police descended on at least three Brooklyn addresses connected to Ullah or his relatives — two in the Kensington neighborhood and one in Old Mill Basin.
A former Mill Basin neighbor said the suspect lived there with an older couple and two other young men. She said she would see him leaving the house with what appeared to be camera equipment and assumed he was on his way to work.