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Federal terrorism charges filed in Port Authority explosion

Akayed Ullah, 27, left, of Brooklyn, is suspected

Akayed Ullah, 27, left, of Brooklyn, is suspected in the explosion Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal. At right, police patrol Tuesday in the underground passageway where the explosion occurred. Credit: NYC TLC; John Roca

The suspected Port Authority Bus Terminal bomber confessed to investigators that he detonated the homemade pipe bomb in support of ISIS and criticized President Donald Trump on Facebook on his way to carry out the attack, which he committed during the busy Monday morning rush hour in order to “maximize human casualties,” authorities said Tuesday.

Akayed Ullah, 27, of the Flatlands section of Brooklyn, was motivated by American foreign policy in the Middle East and other parts of the world and by watching ISIS propaganda videos online beginning in at least 2014, telling investigators during interviews from his hospital bed after his arrest: “I did it for the Islamic State.”

The new details of the attack and its planning — including what authorities said were materials found at Ullah’s home that match bomb components found at the scene of the explosion — were included in a federal criminal complaint charging Ullah with five terrorism-related counts connected to the bombing, which left four people, including Ullah, with minor injuries.

Ullah, who remains hospitalized with burns on his abdomen and hands, has not yet been arraigned. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.

“Trump you failed to protect your nation,” Ullah wrote on Facebook, according to the complaint.

Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, speaking at an afternoon news briefing with officials from the NYPD and the FBI, said Ullah went to the bus terminal at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street with a “hate-filled heart and an evil purpose” and “came to kill, to maim and to destroy.”

Kim declined to comment further on the Facebook post, but said: “Ullah had apparently hoped to die in his own misguided rage, taking as many innocent people as he could with him.”

The criminal complaint against him said he hoped to terrorize as many people as possible.

Ullah, a native of Bangladesh who has lived in the United States for the last seven years, began to self-radicalize in about 2014, according to the federal charging documents.

Ullah began researching his attack — which was captured on surveillance video — a year ago, planned it for several weeks, began collecting bomb-making material two or three weeks ago, and began making the bomb at his home in Brooklyn a week ago, Kim said. Ullah waived his constitutional right to remain silent verbally and in writing, Kim said, and spoke to investigators from his hospital bed.

A law enforcement source said Tuesday that Ullah used only his cellphone to access the internet because he did not have a desktop or laptop computer. Police have his phone, the source said.

The explosion was captured on surveillance video as Ullah allegedly detonated the pipe bomb strapped to his chest inside a pedestrian tunnel underneath the bus terminal at 7:18 a.m. Monday, according to the charging documents. Ullah was found lying on the ground by police and quickly taken into custody, the documents said.

Ullah constructed the pipe bomb using a metal pipe that he filled with “explosive material that he created,” according to the documents, including Christmas tree lights, wiring and a nine-volt battery. He filled the bomb with metal screws to “cause maximum damage,” the documents said, and adhered the bomb to his body using zip ties.

When Ullah detonated the bomb, “apparently he hoped to die,” Kim said, but the device did not fully detonate.

Authorities got a search warrant for his home and found several items, including metal pipes, wire fragments of Christmas tree lights and multiple screws that are consistent with those found at the site of the attack, according to the charging documents.

Also found at his home: a passport under Ullah’s name had multiple handwritten notations, the complaint said, including one reading: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.” Officials did not offer any other explanations about the notes.

Ullah’s family responded to his arrest in a statement released Tuesday morning by New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We are heartbroken by this attack on our city today and by the allegations being made against a member of our family. Our Family like all families is committed to the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers,” the statement said.

The statement added that family was upset that underage members of the family were questioned by law enforcement.

Bill Sweeney, director of the FBI’s New York office, said during the news briefing that his agency’s top priority after a terror attack arrest is to identify other possible operatives or threats.

“That may dictate that we locate, detain, and interview individuals in order to ensure the safety of the public and the safety of the law enforcement personnel conducting those operations,” said Sweeney. “Our teams use appropriate, reasonable and lawful methods to accomplish these goals. But to be clear, our teams will move with speed and move with purpose.”

Ullah is charged with five counts: provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destruction of property by means of fire or explosive and use of a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence. At least two of the charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at an unrelated event Tuesday in the Bronx, said the NYPD would not consider bringing back a Bloomberg-era surveillance program of Muslims, which began in secret soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“The notion of going back to a broken approach to quote-unquote surveillance would only make the situation worse,” de Blasio. “The vast majority of people in all different kinds of communities recognize in this city that they are respected, that they are included, that they have opportunity. Those are the things that avoid people feeling isolated, or God forbid, become radicalized.”

With William Murphy, Mark Morales, Matthew Chayes and Anthony M. DeStefano

Federal complaint excerpts:

nUllah was inspired by ISIS to carry out the December 11 Attack. Ullah stated, among other things, “I did it for the Islamic State.”

n Ullah built the Pipe Bomb in the residence approximately one week before carrying out the December 11 Attack.

nThe Pipe Bomb was comprised of, among other things, a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material he created. Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wiring, and a nine-volt battery to cause the detonation of the Pipe Bomb. Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage.

nUllah carried out the December 11 Attack in part because of teh United States Government’s politicies in, among other places, the Middle East. One of Ullah’s goals carrying out the December 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible.

n He chose to carry out the attack on a workday because he believed that there would be more people.

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