NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The man accused of setting off an explosion in a subway passageway under the Port Authority Bus Terminal made his first court appearance Wednesday.
Akayed Ullah remains hospitalized with serious burns from the pipe bomb authorities said was strapped to his body.
Federal authorities on Tuesday charged him with providing material support to a terrorist group, use of a weapon of mass destruction and three bomb-related counts. If convicted, he could get up to life in prison.
He was read his charges Wednesday via a video conference camera.
With a blanket pulled up to his chin, the 27-year-old laid in his hospital bed with his face turned toward the camera and two defense attorneys standing by, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
Though he told investigators he carried out his alleged attack in the name of ISIS, he only answered ‘yes’ to questions from the judge about whether he understood the federal charges against him.
At one point, the feed was muted because he didn’t seem to understand a question about his financial situation and needed to speak with his lawyers.
The federal criminal complaint released Tuesday says Ullah told authorities he “did it for the Islamic State” and said he posted on his Facebook account Monday before the attack: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”
Police said it happened in the subway passageway on West 42nd Street between 7th and 8th avenues, which connects the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Times Square subway station.
Surveillance video captured the moment when, according to investigators, Ullah set off what law enforcement agents described as a poorly constructed pipe bomb. Investigators say he strapped the device to himself with Velcro and zip ties.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said Ullah picked the morning rush on Monday to maximize casualties in his quest “to kill, to maim and to destroy.”
“His motivation,” the prosecutor said, “was not a mystery.”
Authorities said a search of the Bangladeshi immigrant’s apartment turned up bomb-making materials, including screws matching those found at the scene intended as carnage-creating shrapnel.
The complaint says law enforcement also found a passport in Ullah’s name with handwritten notations, including one that read: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”
Ullah carried out the attack after researching how to build a bomb a year ago and planned his mission for several weeks, Kim said.
Court documents said he gathered the materials a few weeks ago and assembled them last week. The pipe bomb consisted of a Christmas light, wiring and a 9-volt battery, authorities said.
The defendant “had apparently hoped to die in his own misguided rage, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, but through incredible good fortune, his bomb did not seriously injure anyone other than himself,” Kim said.
Investigators say Ullah began his radicalization in 2014, watching ISIS recruitment videos online.
Ullah was influenced by the sermons and writings of a radical Muslim preacher, but appeared to have no known links to local radical groups, Bangladeshi officials said Wednesday.
Law enforcement sources told CBS2 that Ullah doesn’t own a computer, but instead used his cell phone to get online. That phone is now undergoing forensic analysis.
Ullah moved to the U.S. in 2011 but is believed to have visited family members, including his wife, at a home in Bangladesh as recently as September.
Not only have authorities searched his parents’ home and his apartment, but counterterrorism officials in Bangladesh have interviewed his wife and other relatives there, Gainer reported.
“In this part, as it is in Bangladesh, we didn’t find out any connection or identify any of his associates who were or are involved in any terrorist groups here,” said one official.
But they say their investigation is not over and the family remains under surveillance.
“For the time being, if they want to leave the house or want to go somewhere out of Dhaka, they will inform us first,” the official said.
They say they’re now looking to interview his friends and people he went to school with or worked with there.
Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley requested background information on Ullah’s visa history and whether he’d ever been on a terrorism watch list.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)