Bangladesh’s Home Minister assured reporters on Wednesday that the government would not “spare” relatives of failed New York subway bomber Akayed Ullah if evidence indicated that they were involved in jihadist violence.
Ullah — who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh after being sponsored by an uncle in the country — told police following his failed attack that he had acted in the name of the Islamic State. The police complaint filed against Ullah states that he had been radicalizing in his faith for years and planning to build a bomb for an estimated year.
“Akayed Ullah is a US citizen, who has been living in that country since 2011. He has been investigated by the US authorities, and in Bangladesh, his relatives are being questioned by the law enforcers,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal confirmed on Wednesday, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
“We will take action against any family member of Akayed’s found engaged in militant activities,” he added. “Akayed’s family members won’t be spared if they have link to militancy.”
The Bangladeshi newspaper also reported on Wednesday that police had rounded up four people described as “close relatives” of Ullah’s for a second round of questioning after detaining them on Monday, among them Ullah’s wife and in-laws.
Ullah married a woman identified as 25-year-old Jannatul Ferdous Jui in 2016, who lives in Bangladesh with the couple’s six-month-old infant. The first round of questioning revealed that Jui spoke to Ullah 30 minutes before the attack, but she claimed that she was “surprised” by his actions and unaware of his jihadist tendencies. The New York Post notes that investigators also found evidence that Ullah had attempted to radicalize her by exposing her to sermons by extremist imams.
Ullah was last in Bangladesh in September. While that nation continues its investigation into his family there, relatives of Ullah’s in New York published a statement Monday through the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in which they attacked police for their prompt investigation of the attack.
“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,” the statement read.
Bangladeshi police spokeswoman Sahely Ferdous reportedly described Ullah’s interactions with his wife as “very normal” and asserted, “His wife didn’t know anything about this side of Akayed.”
Police in Dhaka also stated that they had no indication that Ullah was dangerous and had not placed him on any watch lists. “So far, his name is not on our wide-range list of radicalized persons or members of terror groups, both from Bangladesh and outside,” senior counterterrorism officer Sanwar Hossain told AFP on Tuesday.
Police in New York, meanwhile, had first revealed that Ullah appeared to have been radicalized by watching jihadist content online and no evidence has yet revealed any ties to international terrorist organizations. Ullah was a regular, however, at the Masjid Nur al Islam in Brooklyn, which the NYPD listed as a “mosque of interest” in 2004 for radical activity. Sources familiar with the mosque told the New York Times that Ullah was close to its imam, Gauhar Ahmed, who faced some law enforcement scrutiny over some reportedly incendiary remarks.
Authorities specified in the official complaint against Ullah that the terrorist strapped himself with a homemade bomb using wires and velcro and attempted to detonate himself in a subway tunnel in between Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Ullah is being charged with multiple terrorism counts, including aiding a terrorist organization, the Islamic State. Ullah’s bomb left him with significant burn wounds, and it mildly injured four others.
Before attempting the attack, investigators say Ullah left a message on Facebook against American President Donald Trump. “Trump you failed to protect your nation,” the message read. He also left a note in his home clarifying his jihadist intentions and told police in his hospital room, “I did it for the Islamic State.”