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Akayed Ullah, the Failed New York City Subway Bomber from Bangladesh, is Sentenced to Life in Prison

Akayed Ullah, the Failed New York City Subway Bomber from Bangladesh, is Sentenced to Life in Prison

Staff Writer
  • The 31-year-old immigrant carried out the attack on behalf of ISIS in a subway station under the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

A Bangladeshi immigrant, Akayed Ullah, 31, who in 2017 set off a bomb in a busy subway artery beneath Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, was sentenced on April 22 to life in prison for the attack, which authorities said was inspired by his devotion to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham terrorist group (ISIS), according to a Department of Justice press release.  

Ullah was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Richard J. Sullivan. “A life sentence is appropriate,” Sullivan, as per news reports. “It was a truly barbaric and heinous crime.” Ullah apologized before hearing the sentence. “Your honor, what I did, it was wrong,” he said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry. … I do not support harming innocent people.”

Ullah had been convicted in federal court on six counts after a one-week trial in the Southern District of New York in 2018. Two of the charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction, carried a maximum sentence of life in prison Ullah wanted to kill as many Americans as possible, officials said, as reported by The Washington Post, but would-be victims were spared because his explosive device, a pipe bomb malfunctioned, it spluttered instead of burst. Ullah could be seen on footage in an underground pedestrian tunnel walkway detonating a bomb on his person during morning rush hour on Dec.11, 2017. Six people were injured in the blast. One person sustained a shrapnel wound to the leg, and two other victims were left with hearing damage.

Ullah sustained injuries to his hands and stomach in the incident. His attack caused the Port Authority subway station and bus terminal to shut down temporarily, disrupting the lives of commuters across the New York City area.

On the morning of the attack, Ullah, who worked as a cabdriver after his arrival in the United States, made his way by subway from his home in Brooklyn to the station at West 42nd Street and Seventh and Eighth avenues. He had a bomb strapped to his chest and a battery in his pants pocket. He was en-route to Times Square, authorities have said. The explosion, at 7:20 a.m., filled the subway tunnel with smoke and caused commuters to flee.

On the morning of the lone-wolf bombing attack, shortly before detonating his bomb, Ullah posted a statement on Facebook referring to then-President Donald Trump. “Trump you failed to protect your nation,” the post said, according to the DOJ press release. Ullah also posted an ISIS slogan so that ISIS would know that he had carried out the attack on the terror group’s behalf, according to the criminal complaint.

According to the DOJ press release, Ullah began radicalizing in about 2014. Angry at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Ullah began seeking out online materials promoting radical Islamic terrorist ideology.  In particular, he was inspired by ISIS propaganda, including a video in which ISIS instructed supporters to carry out attacks in their homelands if they were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS. He began researching how to build a bomb about a year prior to his attack.  He built his pipe bomb in the weeks leading up to the attack at his Brooklyn apartment. 

After the attack, according to the DOJ press release, law enforcement had also searched Ullah’s apartment.  Agents recovered, among other things, Ullah’s passport, which contained the handwritten statement, “O America, die in your rage.”  Less than two weeks before carrying out the attack, Ullah had apparently watched and drawn inspiration from a particular ISIS propaganda video that proclaimed, “die in your rage, America,” with an image of the U.S. Congress in the background, said officials.

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Authorities said the bomb was composed of a battery, wires, metal screws and a Christmas tree light bulb. After his arrest, Ullah, waiving his Miranda rights stated to law enforcement, among other things, that he carried out the bombing on behalf of ISIS, and chose a busy weekday morning for the attack in order to “terrorize as many people as possible”, as reported in the DOJ press release. 

Trump would later highlight the episode in arguing for stricter immigration policies. Ullah was in the United States on a visa for relatives of people already living legally in the country. Ullah got an entry visa in 2011 because he had an uncle who was already a U.S. citizen. Trump said allowing foreigners to follow relatives to the U.S. was “incompatible with national security.”

“Ullah’s motive was clear and unambiguous: a deeply held ideological hatred for America,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in the DOJ press release. “Ironically, Ullah’s actions resulted only in reaffirming the greatness of America by displaying the fairness and impartiality for which our justice system stands. Ullah received a speedy, fair, public trial, and was convicted by a jury of his peers. Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired; his just sentence of life in prison only exemplifies that cowardly acts of terrorism will be met with law enforcement’s unwavering resolve to protect our core values of freedom and democracy.”

Prosecutors had sought the life term for Ullah, saying the “premeditated and vicious” attack was committed on behalf of the Islamic State group. But defense lawyer Amy Gallicchio said Ullah deserved no more than the mandatory 35 years in prison. She said he had “lived lawfully and peacefully” before the December 2017 attack that she blamed on a “personal crisis that left him isolated, depressed, vulnerable and suicidal.”

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