New York police on Tuesday said they charged a Bangladeshi man with terrorism, accusing him of setting off a pipe bomb a day earlier in a crowded Manhattan commuter hub, while police in Bangladesh launched an investigation keeping the suspect’s family under surveillance.
Akayed Ullah, 27, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, supporting an act of terrorism, and making a terroristic threat under New York state law, the New York Police Department said, adding that the US authorities might also bring federal charges, reports Reuters.
New York police say Ullah set off a pipe bomb in an underground corridor of the subway system that connects Times Square to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at rush hour on Monday morning, injuring himself and three others.
Police have so far found no criminal record of Akayed Ullah or his family in Bangladesh.
Police in Dhaka and Chittagong as well as Akayed’s relatives in his ancestral home in Chittagong said Akayed’s father Sanaullah Talukder of Muchhapur Panditer Haat under Sandwip in Chittagong left for Dhaka about 30 years ago and had a grocers’ shop at Hazaribagh in the capital.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn and was a green card holder, said Shameem Ahsan, consul general of Bangladesh in New York, reports Reuters.
Akayed or other members of his family had almost no communication with their ancestral home in the recent years, they said.
Relatives in the suspect’s ancestral village said that police interrogated them about Akayed and his family on Tuesday.
Sandwip police called Joynal Abedin, 75, husband of Akayed’s maternal aunt, to know more about the suspect, a top police official said.
Meanwhile, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit of police in Dhaka took Akayed’s wife Jannatul Ferdous Joyee, father-in-law Julfikar Hayder and mother-in-law Mahfuza Akhter to the CTTC office in the city from their rented residence at Maneshwar Road of Jigatala in the afternoon for interrogation, CTTC additional deputy commissioner Saiful Islam said.
Police said Akayed came to Bangladesh in September after her wife gave birth to a child. He left for the US in October.
Senior officials of the CTTC said they were trying to collect information sought by law enforcers of the United States.
Assistant inspector general of police Soheli Ferdousi said they found no criminal records against Akayed or his family so far.
She, however, said that Akayed came to Bangladesh in September for the last time.
‘Akayed has two brothers and two sisters and he is the second among five children of his parents. His elder brother Ahsanullah went to the USA first with the help of his maternal uncles. Then he took the rest of the family. Though he was from here, they had been living in Hazaribagh in Dhaka for over 25 years. I went to their Dhaka residence in 2006 but I cannot exactly recall the lane. His father Salaullah ran a grocery shop in Dhaka. He died few years ago in New York,’ said Akayed’s relative Safayet Hossain at his ancestral home at village Muchhapur Panditer Haat.
He said that he heard that Akayed’s wife was in Dhaka now and had a six-month-old baby.
‘Akayed’s family generally does not communicate with us. Police communicated with us to know about Akayed’s whereabouts,’ Akayed’s cousin Emdadullah Sohrab said.
Akayed’s father was a freedom fighter and the whole family of Sanaullah-Dilruba couple went to the USA about 10 years ago, said Chittagong superintendent of police Nure Alam Meena.
He said that Akayed was born and had grown up in Dhaka and the family came to Muchhapur Panditer Haat about one and a half years ago for the last time to arrange milad and other religious rituals for Sanaullah, who died in New York and was buried there about three years ago.
The SP said that Akayed married a girl from Chandpur two years ago and the couple had a baby now.
‘We did not find any criminal record of Sanaullah or his family,’ he said.
Md Abul Hossain, a lawyer and also a tenant of the building where Akayed’s in-laws live, said Akayed’s wife lived with her parents after their marriage two years ago.
He said that Akayed’s in-laws were the oldest tenants of the house, owned by a Saudi Arabia expatriate, who died a few years ago.
A US enforcement official familiar with the investigation into Monday’s attack said officers had found evidence that Ullah had watched Islamic State propaganda on the internet, reports Reuters.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio called it an attempted terrorist attack, and US officials said it appeared to be a rare if not unprecedented attempt at suicide bombing on US soil.
Ullah survived with burns and lacerations and was taken to hospital in police custody. The three bystanders sustained minor injuries.
The NYPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were conducting the investigation in conjunction with other agencies through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and were asking the public for any information about the suspect.
Bangladesh strongly condemned the attack. ‘A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,’ the government said in a statement.
US president Donald Trump on Monday said the attack emphasised the need for US immigration reforms.
‘America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,’ he said in a statement.
The president also criticised the visa programme that allowed Ullah to enter the United States in 2011 because he had family members already in the country, saying such family visas are ‘incompatible with national security.’
HT Imam, political adviser to prime minister Sheikh Hasina, said he believed the attack would have no ‘negative impact’ on relations with the United States.
‘The US government is well informed about the Bangladesh government’s attitude regarding terror activities,’ Imam said.
The US Supreme Court last week handed a victory to Trump by allowing his latest travel ban, targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries, to go into full effect even as legal challenges continued in lower courts.
The ban covers people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seeking to enter the United States. Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by Islamist militants.
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