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NYC Subway Jihadi Used Christmas Tree Light Bulb for Bomb, Targeted Christmas Posters

A police officer stands in the passageway connecting New York City's Port Authority bus terminal and the Times Square subway station Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, near the site of Monday's explosion. Commuters returning to New York City's subway system on Tuesday were met with heightened security a day after a …
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Akayed Ullah, identified as the man arrested after failing to execute a suicide bombing in the subway tunnels under Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, reportedly told police that he chose his target due to the Christmas posters in the area and used a Christmas light bulb as a igniter for his failed explosive.

Ullah, an electrician who had previously worked as a taxi driver, reportedly told police he had attempted the suicide bombing in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group and had learned to make a bomb following instructions on the internet.

Ullah injured himself significantly but only four others sustained mild injuries in the attack, which occurred during the early morning commuter rush in the nation’s largest bus terminal.

The New York Post reported late Monday that, following receiving treatment for his injuries, Ullah “spent an hour spilling his guts to investigators at Bellevue Hospital.” The Bangladeshi native reportedly told police that he had chosen the location for his attack “because of Christmas posters.” He also told police, according to Post “sources,” that he had long planned an attack in retaliation for anti-terrorist American activity abroad.

“They’ve been bombing [my people] and I wanted to do damage here,” the sources told the Post that Ullah said, citing “Gaza, Syria and Iraq” in particular.

NBC News adds that Islamic State calls to kill Americans and other Westerners during the Christmas season inspired him, according to his statements to police. ISIS terrorists online had specifically requested that individuals who sympathize with the terrorist group conduct attacks within the United States without consulting others within the terrorist group. American officials had warned of an elevated terrorist threat during the Christmas season last week, asking individuals to remain vigilant and observe and report any strange activity.

Officials specifically warned that the demise of the Islamic State in its strongholds of Iraq and Syria had not led to a decline in ISIS propaganda online, and such propaganda could radicalize individuals around the world long after the destruction of ISIS leadership.

The New York Daily News published details of the bomb Ullah used to conduct the failed attack late Monday, also citing sources, highlighting the use of a Christmas tree bulb in part of the apparatus. The newspaper states that sources relayed that Ullah’s bomb featured a “broken Christmas tree light bulb as an initiator to ignite the powder inside a 12-inch pipe.” Ullah strapped the device on himself with velcro and zip ties, according to New York Police Department (NYPD) deputy commissioner for counterterrorism John Miller.

The NYPD complaint against Ullah later confirmed this as part of the device on his body upon his arrest. It also noted that Ullah told law enforcement officials, “I did it for the Islamic State,” and had posted a statement against President Donald Trump on Facebook the morning of the attack.

The complaint adds that Ullah’s “radicalization began in at least 2014,” and that he appears to have begun his research on how to build a bomb a year ago.

The NYPD has published its charges against Ullah, all for violations of terrorism law. Federal charges have yet to be released at press time.

On Monday evening, an attorney for the Council on Islamic Relations released a statement on behalf of Ullah’s family that read, in part, “We are also outraged by the behavior of law enforcement officials who have held children as small as four years old out in the cold and who held a teenager out of high school classes to interrogate him without a lawyer, without his parents.”

Ullah immigrated to the United States after being sponsored by a distant relative who had come to the United States under the Diversity Visa Lottery. Media in Bangladesh report that law enforcement there have detained Ullah’s wife and her parents for questioning, and stated that Ullah did not have a criminal record in Bangladesh, which he last visited in September.


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