Investigators Probe Explosion In New York City Pedestrian Tunnel

Dec 12, 2017
Originally published on December 12, 2017 6:28 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This explosion yesterday morning in a busy pedestrian tunnel in New York City. Several people were injured when a man detonated what is being called a low-tech explosive device. It was strapped to his chest. Police are calling it an attempted terror attack. And the alleged bomber is in custody facing state and federal terrorism charges. NPR's Joel Rose has been covering this story for us. He's on the line now from New York. Hey there, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Good morning.

KELLY: All right, we have a name for this suspect - Akayed Ullah. What do we know about him?

ROSE: We know he's 27 years old, came to the U.S. from Bangladesh, lives in Brooklyn. He's a lawful, permanent resident with a green card. He had a license to drive professionally in New York City, but he let it lapse. Police say yesterday morning, he strapped that low-tech pipe bomb to his body and detonated it in this long corridor between two major subway stations at rush hour. He was injured and arrested, taken to Bellevue Hospital in New York.

So far, police have not said much about why or how they believe he carried out the attack, only that he was inspired by ISIS. The family released a statement through the Council on Islamic-American Relations. It read in part, (reading) we are heartbroken by this attack on our city today and by the allegations being made against a member of our family.

KELLY: Now, you said police are not saying much so far. Do we know what they are doing? Bring us up to speed on the investigation.

ROSE: Well, they're investigating a couple of different locations in Brooklyn that are associated with the suspect and his family - one block in the Kensington neighborhood where he may have prayed at a local mosque and another block in the Flatlands neighborhood in south central Brooklyn where members of his family live. A neighbor named Kisslyn Joseph spoke to reporters in the neighborhood yesterday. Let's listen to what she had to say.

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KISSLYN JOSEPH: It's really shocking that somebody that lives right next to you could be building a bomb while you're just minding your business. And I'm so glad that he hurt himself and he didn't really hurt anybody. I'm glad that something went wrong.

ROSE: Joseph also said that she overheard an argument around 2 in the morning early on Monday morning with someone in the house shouting on the phone, she said. It's not clear though if that has anything to do with the attack.

KELLY: Now, I want to follow up on something you said, which is that Ullah came to the U.S. from Bangladesh. Immigration officials say he came here with his family in 2011. That is of interest to the White House. Remind us why.

ROSE: Right. Ullah came here on a family visa to join relatives already in the U.S. And yesterday, the White House put out a statement calling for an end to so-called chain migration, which the president says is incompatible with national security. Here's a quick clip of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary yesterday.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: We must protect our borders. We must ensure that individuals entering our country are not coming to do harm to our people and we must move to a merit-based system of immigration.

ROSE: The White House has been pushing for this shift towards what it calls merit-based immigration as part of broader immigration reform. But so far, we have not seen much proof to back up the White House suggestion here that Ullah was radicalized anywhere outside of the U.S. Law enforcement just hasn't said much about that so far.

KELLY: All right. Joel, thanks very much.

ROSE: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Joel Rose updating us on what we know and what we don't about what police are calling an attempted terror attack yesterday in New York City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.