The would-be suicide bomber who detonated an explosive device underground near the bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal is a former New York City cab driver who told investigators that he was inspired by ISIS to carry out the attack for revenge, law enforcement sources said.
Akayed Ullah, 27, who is from Bangladesh and was living in Brooklyn, told authorities he was trying to exact vengeance for decades of violence against Muslims in Gaza, Syria and Iraq, saying in sum and substance from his hospital bed: “They’ve been bombing [my people] and I wanted to do damage here,” sources said.
He told cops he was inspired by ISIS, but police don’t believe he had any direct contact with the group, sources said.
Ullah, who officials say is a former city cab driver whose license has lapsed, set off a “low-tech” homemade pipe bomb strapped to his midsection around 7:20 a.m. inside the subway passageway between West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue.
The incident was captured on transit surveillance footage.
Ullah, who had the explosive device affixed to him with Velcro and zip ties, suffered burns to his hands and abdomen, along with lacerations, and injured three others who were in proximity to him. He was quickly taken into custody and transported to Bellevue Hospital.
Immediately following the explosion, an MTA cleaner could be seen on surveillance video holding a dustpan and picking up two items off the ground while the bomber was lying in the empty corridor before the scene was locked down, a source said.
All three victims suffered minor injuries that included ringing in the ears and headaches. Two took themselves to Mount Sinai West and one to Mount Sinai Queens, according to officials.
“Let’s be clear that this was an attempted terrorist attack,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in Times Square alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
“As New Yorkers, our lives revolve around the subways. When we hear of an attack in the subways, it’s incredibly unsettling,” de Blasio said, adding, “Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals. Thank God our first responders were there so quickly to address the situation, to make sure people were safe. Thank God the only injuries as we know at this point were minor.”
Cuomo called the incident “one of our worst nightmares.”
“This is New York,” Cuomo said. “The reality is that we are a target by many who would like to make a statement against democracy, against freedom. We have the Statue of Liberty in our harbor and that makes us an international target.”
The governor added: “We are not going to allow them to disrupt us.”
O’Neill said the device “was intentionally detonated,” though sources say it went off prematurely.
Ullah came to the United States from Bangladesh with an immigrant visa on Feb. 21, 2011. He is a legal permanent resident with a green card.
A spokesman for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said he was a licensed cab driver from March 2012 to March 2015. More recently, he was working as an electrician.
Law enforcement officials said Ullah, who had traveled abroad numerous times since moving to the U.S., didn’t raise any red flags before Monday. He only had several traffic tickets on his record.
Soon after the explosion, police officers descended on at least three Brooklyn addresses connected to Ullah or his relatives — two in the Kensington section and one in Old Mill Basin.
A former neighbor in Mill Basin 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.
FYI: Bangladesh is about 90% Muslim and the Islamic invasion and conquest in the region began in the 10th century.