NEW YORK — The suspect in a pipe bomb attack on the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York reportedly said he was motivated by Israeli actions in Gaza.
Akayed Ullah detonated a crude pipe bomb strapped to his body Monday in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, injuring himself, slightly wounding three others and sending New York commuters fleeing in terror through the smoky passageway.
New York Police identified Ullah, 27, as a resident of Brooklyn. He is said to be of Bangladeshi origin and has lived in the United States for the past seven years.
CNN cited a “law enforcement source” who said Ullah said he was upset with an unspecified “incursion into Gaza.”
The suspect spoke with authorities at Bellevue Hospital, where he was taken to be treated for burns to his hands and abdomen. The others who were injured suffered ringing in the ears and headaches.
It was not clear what Israeli action in Gaza Ullah was reportedly angry over, but the bombing came at a moment of increased tensions in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, partially stemming from US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and Israel’s capital.
On Friday, rockets fired at southern Israel from Gaza damaged the entrance of an empty kindergarten in the town of Sderot. Israel responded late Friday night with airstrikes on Hamas military installations in Gaza that killed two Hamas operatives.
On Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces discovered and demolished a terror tunnel that crossed into Israel from central Gaza.
Law enforcement officials said Ullah was inspired by the Islamic State group but apparently did not have any direct contact with the group and probably acted alone. Gov. Andrew Cuomo later told the NY1 cable channel that the suspect went online to learn how to make a bomb.
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“We have no evidence at this time that there were any secondary devices or it was part of a larger plan,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The bombing took place in a subway tunnel near Times Square, where a demonstration took place Friday against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Protesters there called for a Palestinian uprising against Israel — known as an intifada — and an end to 1993 Oslo peace accords that, among other agreements, created the Palestinian Authority.
There was no known link between the rally at Ullah’s attack.
Ullah, who lives in Brooklyn, came to the US from Bangladesh almost seven years ago and had been licensed to drive a livery cab between 2012 and 2015, according to law enforcement officials and NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. He was speaking with investigators from his hospital bed, they said. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast.
Ullah arrived in the US in 2011 on an F-4 visa, a preferential visa available for those with family in the US who are citizens, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said.
Investigators searched Ullah’s apartment, interviewing witnesses and relatives and looking for surveillance footage that may show his movements in the moments before the attack. They were also reviewing his subway fare card.
Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother in a residential area of Brooklyn with a large Bangladeshi community, neighbors said. The home was just off a shopping strip — a red two-story brick building.
The Bangladesh Embassy in Washington condemned the attack. The deputy chief of mission, Mahbub Hassan Saleh, said the embassy had not received any information from authorities about the suspect.
The explosion, which happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, triggered a massive emergency response by police and firefighters both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at the nearby Port Authority bus terminal.
It’s the city’s busiest subway station and a major transit hub, with 64 million subway riders passing through every year. In 2016, daily ridership on the subway was 5.7 million, a record high.
Everything around Times Square was shut down, halting what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour at the “Crossroads of the World.” But streets quickly began returning to normal, and traffic around the area was expected to be operational by the evening rush.
Authorities said the bomb was a low-tech explosive device attached to the man with Velcro and plastic ties. They were investigating how it was made.
“He detonated the bomb, the explosive chemical in the bomb went off, it did not have the desired affect of causing the pipe itself to shatter, which would’ve caused the more significant damage,” Cuomo said on MSNBC.
Port Authority police said officers found the man injured on the ground, with wires protruding from his jacket to his pants and the device strapped to his torso under his coat. They said he was reaching for a cellphone and they grabbed his hands.
It was the first bomb blast in the subway in more than two decades. The last bomb to go off in the subway system was believed to be in December 1994, when an explosive made from mayonnaise jars and batteries wounded 48 people in a car in lower Manhattan.
A White House spokeswoman said the pipe bombing shows the need for “immigration reform.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Congress should work with the president, stressing the need to “protect our borders” and calling for a “merit-based” immigration system.