NYC Officials: Subway Explosion Was ‘Attempted Terrorist Attack’

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Mark Lennihan/AP

NEW YORK (AP) — A pipe bomb strapped to a 27-year-old man was intentionally detonated around 7:20 a.m. Monday in the subway near Times Square, just as the morning rush hour commute was underway, injuring the suspect and three other people, city officials said.

The improvised device was only partially detonated, officials said, characterizing the incident as an “attempted terror attack.” 

New York City officials said the suspect, who they’ve identified as 27-year-old Akayaed Ullah, intentionally detonated the low-tech device, which was strapped to the perpetrator with a combination of velcro and zip ties. Authorities are investigating how it was made, but think the suspect may have made the bomb at work, CNN reported.  

Police say the explosion happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. The 7:20 a.m. blast filled the passageway, crowded with throngs of Monday morning commuters, with smoke.

All injuries were non-life threatening, according to the New York City Fire Department.

Ullah was seriously injured with burns and lacerations to his hands and abdomen. Three people in the immediate area sustained minor injuries and took themselves to the hospital, officials said. The joint terror task force is conducting a background investigation into the suspect. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the “reality” of the incident “better than the initial expectation.”  There are no additional known activities or “known credible threats” at this time, Mayor Bill De Blasio said.

The New York Times obtained a copy of the surveillance video of the explosion, which appears to show the moment when the device was detonated. Ullah is seen laying on the ground after the smoke clears.

This was an attempted terrorist attack,” De Blasio said during a press conference Monday morning. “Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goal. Thank God our first responders were there so quickly to address the situation to make sure people were safe. Thank God the only injuries that we know at this point were minor. 

City officials said the suspect did make statements before detonating the device, but they would not yet share what he said Monday morning.

An anonymous law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that Ullah was inspired by the Islamic State group, but had apparently not had any direct contact with the group. During an interview with CNN Monday afternoon, Cuomo confirmed those reports, that Ullah was “informed” by a terror group. The officials said he lives in Brooklyn and may be of Bangladeshi descent.

Official sources told CNN that the suspect is talking to police while being treated at Bellevue Hospital. Police are investigating whether Ullah intended to set off the device in the walkway, or whether he had meant to do it in a busier location.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff. A police officer is holding the man’s hands behind his back.

The explosion triggered a massive emergency response by police and firefighters both above and below ground, tangling subway and bus service at the nearby Port Authority bus terminal.

Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thanked the “quick” work by first responders on Monday morning.

Elrana Peralta, a customer service worker for Greyhound, said she works in the Port Authority terminal complex near where the blast happened, but didn’t hear the explosion.

“All we could hear was the chaos,” she said. “We could hear people yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!'”

John Miles, 28, from Vermont, was waiting for a bus to Massachusetts. He also didn’t hear the blast, but saw police react.

“I didn’t know what was going on. Officers were running around. I was freaking out,” he said. There was an announcement that people should take their bags and leave. “They didn’t incite panic. It was fairly orderly.”

Video from above the “Crossroads of the World” showed lines of police and emergency vehicles, their lights flashing, lining the streets and no other vehicle traffic moving.

Everything around the Port Authority area was shut down — a surreal scene of still at what would ordinarily be a bustling rush hour.

New Jersey Transit buses headed to the Port Authority were diverting to other locations. NJ Transit said buses were taking passengers to Secaucus and Hoboken, where they could take trains into the city.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the explosion.

___

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

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