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United States

Four injured in rush hour pipe bomb blast in New York station, suspect arrested and hospitalised

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump’s policy to end family immigration visa would have kept out the amateur bomber

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 9:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 10:48am

A man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in the subway near Times Square on Monday, injuring himself and three other people at the height of the morning rush hour.

The suspect and three others were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries in what the mayor and police labelled an attempted terror attack.

Identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, the attacker was being treated at a hospital for burns to his hands and abdomen.

The Department of Homeland Security revealed that the suspect entered the US on a family immigrant visa in 2011.

A White House spokeswoman said the explosion shows the need for “immigration reform.”

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the suspect would have been barred from entering the US under President Donald Trump’s proposal to end immigration preferences for family members of US residents.

The 7.20am blast caused smoke to fill the underground passageway beneath 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, which was crowded with throngs of Monday morning commuters. The explosion left the suspect sprawled on the ground and the others injured suffered ringing in their ears and headaches.

Investigators said it was not clear if the bomb was detonated intentionally or prematurely.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill labelled it an attempted terror attack.

“Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” de Blasio said.

Ullah, who lives in Brooklyn, came to the US from Bangladesh almost seven years ago and had been licensed to drive a livery cab between 2012 and 2015, according to law enforcement officials and NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. He was speaking with investigators from his hospital bed, they said.

Law enforcement officials said Ullah was inspired by the Islamic State group but apparently did not have any direct contact with the group and probably acted alone. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the blast.

Authorities said the bomb was a low-tech explosive device attached to the man with Velcro and plastic ties. Governor Andrew Cuomo later told the NY1 cable channel that the suspect went online to learn how to make a bomb.

Investigators were searching Ullah’s apartment, interviewing witnesses and relatives and looking for surveillance footage that may show his movements in the moments before the attack. They were also reviewing his subway fare card.

The Bangladesh Embassy in Washington condemned the attack. The deputy chief of mission, Mahbub Hassan Saleh, said the embassy had not received any information from authorities about the suspect.

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.

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 heading 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.

Instead of commenting on the suspected terror attack, Trump tweeted at 9.17am criticising a Sunday story in The New York Times that said he watched cable news television for at least four hours a day.

The blast came just weeks after eight people died in New York when another man, also said to be inspired by the Islamic State, drove a rented truck onto a bike path near the World Trade Centre.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg