NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A suspect carrying a crudely-assembled improvised bomb is in custody following a blast in the underground walkway between Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal Monday morning.
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Five other people suffered minor injuries that are not considered life-threatening. At least three transported themselves to area hospitals with symptoms like ringing in the ears, officials said.
The suspect has been identified as Akayed Ullah, 27, who was wearing an improvised explosive device, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Ullah intentionally detonated the device, O’Neill said.
Ullah is from Bangladesh. He arrived in the United States in February of 2011 and had a visa. He came in with his parents and 3-4 siblings and subsequently obtained a Green Card and became a permanent U.S. resident.
Ullah has two addresses associated with him in Brooklyn. Neighbors said he lived in a two-story brick house on East 48th Street in Brooklyn with parents and a brother, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported. Investigators were also seen at a home on Ocean Parkway.
He was rushed to Bellevue Hospital with non life-threatening injuries. He suffered burns to his hands and abdomen.
Ullah made statements to investigators to the effect that he was inspired by ISIS, there is currently a BOLO – be on the lookout – for his brother who is wanted for questioning.
“The question is did the suspect utter anything before he detonated the device,” O’Neill said. “It’s part of the investigation.”
Pro-ISIS channels are celebrating Ullah as an “istishadi,” an attacker, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer said.
But law enforcement sources called him a ‘loser in his basement.’
Police spoke with Ullah’s family in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn.
Ullah’s family released a statement on Monday night.
“We are heartbroken by this attack on our city today and by the allegations being made against a member of our family, but we are also outraged by the behavior of law enforcement officials who have held children as young as 4 years old out in the cold and who pulled a teenager out of high school classes to interrogate him without a lawyer, without his parents. These are not the actions that we expect from our justice system, and we hope to see better in the days and weeks to come. We also ask the press to respect our privacy and to give our family time to grieve this horrific development,” they said in part.
Authorities are investigating addresses and workplaces associated with the suspect. Ullah had a NYC Taxi & Limousine “for hire vehicle” license from 2012-2015. That type of license allowed drivers to operate black cars, community livery or limousine.
“He may have been inspired by ISIS. He could’ve been inspired by Al Qaeda. That he was at the very least inspired by Islamist terrorism,” said Rep. Peter King. “It could turn out that this is part of a larger plot. It could be that he has been meeting with other people in Brooklyn or in New York or in the New York metropolitan area and that they could be planning on carrying out attacks. So you can’t rule anything out at this stage. You have to assume the worst and work your way back.”
Neighbors in the area of his home spoke out about the suspect.
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“He was just nasty. We would tell him to move the car, he felt like he owned it,” said the owner of a hardware store who had previously fought with Ullah.
“I’ve seen him in the neighborhood walking around. Pretty much looks like he always has something on his mind. Never says hello, doesn’t talk to anybody,” one woman said.
“You never know who anybody is, you never know what can happen or what can be going on next to you,” said one woman who lives next door to Ullah and heard him arguing loudly early Sunday morning.
“He’s a nasty, arrogant, POS,” neighbor Alan Butrico said.
Authorities are investigating the attack as a possible “lone wolf” based on the rudimentary construction of the device. They describe him as a loser in his basement stewing, Kramer reported.
The device was affixed to his body with velcro and zip ties, according to O’Neill.
The crudely-made device had wires protruding from it. The poor construction caused a “flash” of the explosive component, but there were no serious shrapnel injuries consistent with a traditional pipe bomb.
Police and the Joint Terrorism Task Force want to know just what was in the bomb that Ullah apparently detonated prematurely and where got the bomb-making instructions.
“The bomb squad is in the process now, along with the FBI special agent bomb technicians, of processing that crime scene with others. They’re going to gather up those pieces and we’ll have a better idea of what the device was put together with and what was inside,”said NYPD’s counterterrorism chief John Miller.
“Without getting into too many specifics, the device is based on a pipe bomb. It was affixed to his person with a combination of Velcro and zip ties,” Miller continued. “It’s critically important for officials to determine where he got both the materials and the instructions for making the bomb.”
A federal law enforcement official says the device malfunctioned — it did not fully detonate, according to the official.
Sources tell CBS2 that while speaking with police, Akayed said he intended to set off the device with the understanding he would die as a result.
Additionally, sources say Akayed cited several gripes with the United States in his motivation for the bombing, including perceived aggressions by the United States against his home country and the treatment of Muslims around the world under the Bush and Obama administrations.
“With the internet now, anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur-level explosive device,” said N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Terror experts said their worry is the threat of a copycat. Although Akayed didn’t succeed, this was the first time a suicide bomber got inside the subway.
“This is our worst fear. We always were worried about our subway system and having a bomb in the subway system we have what appears to the first suicide bomber actively trying to penetrate our subway system and cause great harm,” Manny Gomez said.
The NYPD is beefing up security around town, officials said.
“NYPD will adjusting and adapting the way they always do. Right now, they don’t believe there’s any follow-up attack immediately planned, but there are still several weeks to go before Christmas, two weeks from today,” King said.
Port Authority Police Officer Jack Collins held the suspect at gunpoint assisted by officers Sean Gallagher, Drew Preston and Anthony Manfredini.
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Anyone with any information about Ullah is asked to call authorities at 1-888-NYC-SAFE.