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Port Authority commuter recalls at trial explosion that injured him

Akayed Ullah was accused of detonating a

 Akayed Ullah was accused of detonating a crude bomb under a Port Authority pedestrian tunnel in December. Credit: AP

David Wall testified Tuesday that he cannot hear his daughter play the accordion or bid him good night without hearing aids because of injuries he suffered when a pipe bomb exploded in a subway passageway under Times Square almost a year ago.

“I don’t hear my daughter’s voice unless I have my hearing aids in,” he said through tears in Manhattan federal court. “I have to put them in to stop the ringing in my ears.”

Wall, 65, of Hewitt, New Jersey, is among the star prosecution witnesses in the trial of Akayed Ullah, the immigrant electrician accused of making the bomb, strapping it to his body and detonating it before 7:20 a.m. on Dec. 11. The incident occurred in a pedestrian corridor between the subway stations at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Times Square.

Wall was one of four people hurt in the attack, including Ullah. There were no fatalities.

On Tuesday, prosecutors displayed pieces of the bomb recovered after its detonation, including metal pipe, wire, burned clothing, screws, Christmas lights and a 9-volt Duracell battery. The jurors passed around a broken pipe with jagged sharp edges.

Ullah, 28, has been accused of aiding the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. He is facing up to life in prison on six charges, including providing material support to ISIS, use of a weapon of mass destruction and committing a terror attack against a mass transportation system, according to the indictment.

The Bangladeshi-born immigrant, who came to the United States in 2011, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Wall, the New Jersey commuter, testified Tuesday that when he saw Ullah in the subway passageway he thought he was homeless because he was walking slowly despite people rushing by him. After Ullah set off the pipe bomb and fell to the floor, Wall said he tried to help him until he smelled gunpowder on his clothing.

“I ran,” the commuter said. “I was dizzy, my head was pounding, my right calf hurt.”

Hours after the bombing, Wall was taken to a hospital where metal shrapnel was removed from his right leg. In addition to hearing loss, Wall testified Tuesday that he now has great trepidation about using the subway, which is a necessity for his job as a construction project manager based in Long Island City.

“Every time you swipe in, your chest tightens, there’s shortness of breath,” he said, crying softly. “I look at everybody on the train. I don’t relax…I cannot wait to get above ground.”

Wall was among four witnesses to testify for the prosecution on Tuesday after a jury was selected and attorneys delivered opening statements.

In her opening, prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski said Ullah grew to hate the United States after watching ISIS videos that encouraged him and others to bring terrorism to their communities if they couldn’t join ISIS in the Middle East.

“Who set off that bomb in the middle of Manhattan? That man, Akayed Ullah,” she said, directing the jury toward the defendant sitting nearby in a blue jacket and gray pants.

Donaleski continued, “Why did he do it? To terrorize America for ISIS.”

The group’s videos told viewers “if you could not travel overseas, you should take the fight to where you are,” the prosecutor said. “The defendant did just that. He wanted to maim and kill innocent civilians.”

Ullah’s attorney Julia Gatto said his legal team concedes that he produced the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment using materials from a construction site, took the A train to Manhattan on Dec. 11 and detonated the bomb underneath Times Square.

However, she said, he wasn’t a terrorist or an ISIS member.

“This case isn’t about ISIS recruiting a terrorist in our midst to attack us,” she told the jury of eight women and four men. “This case is about a young man, a deeply troubled and isolated young man who wanted to take his own life.”

Jurors were shown surveillance videos on Tuesday of the explosion, Ullah lying injured on the floor and then police arresting him.

Gatto said she expected the jury to find Ullah guilty on some of the indictment’s six counts: “The defendant should be punished but he didn’t commit all of the crimes.”

The trial continues Wednesday.

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