National News

New York bombing suspect's wife 'didn't know about radicalization'

Posted December 13, 2017 3:12 a.m. EST

— The wife of the suspect in a pipe bomb explosion in New York was "surprised to find out what her husband did," police in Bangladesh told CNN, despite speaking to him 30 minutes before the attempted attack.

Akayed Ullah, who is accused of detonating a homemade explosive in a pedestrian subway tunnel at a bus terminal near Times Square, was born in Bangladesh but legally moved to the US in 2011.

His wife, who remained in Bangladesh when he moved Brooklyn, said he "never mentioned radicalization or planning these types of activities," Bangladeshi police spokeswoman Sahely Ferdous said.

"Akayed's conversations with her were very normal," Ferdous said. "Akayed talked to his wife around 30 minutes before the explosion, but he didn't mention anything about the plan or what he was going to do."

Ferdous added that she said Ullah's activities around his family were "very much normal. His wife didn't know anything about this side of Akayed," Ferdous said.

The couple were married in 2016 in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. When Ullah returned to the US, his wife remained in Dhaka with their baby and her parents.

Ullah has no criminal record in Bangladesh, according to Ferdous.

She said Ullah last traveled to Dhaka in September. The federal law enforcement source said Ullah's travel overseas was not significant for the planning of the attempted attack.

Ullah posted on Facebook earlier in the day, saying, "Trump you failed to protect your nation," according to a criminal complaint.

Charges faced

He faces a number of federal and state terrorism charges after authorities say he detonated a device made of a battery, wires, metal screws and a Christmas tree lightbulb during the busy morning commute on Monday.

The blast detonated around 7:20 a.m. in an underground walkway connecting two subway lines beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which accommodates 220,000 passenger trips a day.

On grainy surveillance footage, commuters are seen walking through a tunnel when a burst of smoke erupts into the hallway, quickly filling it. Commuters flinch and take cover. When the smoke clears, a man can be seen on the ground in the hallway.

Five people were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals, while the suspect was said to be seriously injured. He is at Bellevue Hospital, where he is being treated for lacerations and burns to his hands and abdomen, New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Anthony Manfredini, the first responding officer, described the injuries to the suspect as what appeared to be shrapnel-type wounds.

Prepared to die

According to a law enforcement official, through his comments to investigators, Ullah indicated he was prepared to die. The source also said the suspect was wired up with the self-made device during his entire subway ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Investigators said Ullah admitted that he built and detonated the device, saying he was inspired to do so by ISIS. He said he acted in response to Israeli actions in Gaza.

Ullah's ISIS radicalization began in 2014, according to the complaint, and was at least in part inspired by the truck attack in New York last month, which killed eight people. He began researching how to build improvised explosive devices about a year ago, began collecting the necessary items two to three weeks ago and built the bomb in his home a week ago, the complaint states.

Investigators recovered a passport in his name with a handwritten message: "O America, die in your rage."

He faces five federal terrorism-related charges and three state terrorism-related charges, according to court documents.

Ullah's family released a statement through the Council on American-Islamic Relations saying they are heartbroken by the attack, but simultaneously "outraged" by the behavior of unspecified law enforcement officials during the investigation.

Trump administration calls for change

US President Donald Trump said Monday that the attack bolstered the need for his preferred immigration policies, which the White House said would have prevented the suspect from entering the country.

Trump has called on Congress to end the diversity immigration lottery, which provides visas to people randomly chosen from countries where there is a low rate of immigration to the United States. He also has called to end chain migration, a term that describes immigration based on family connections.

"Today's terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security," Trump said Monday.

L. Francis Cissna, the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, reiterated that call Tuesday.

"We need to be able to select the types of people that are coming here based on criteria that ensure their success. Criteria that ensure their ability to assimilate successfully in our country," Cissna said. "Random lotteries, extended family connections -- that's not the way we want to run an immigration system."