'Attempted terrorist attack’: Suspect held after NYC rush-hour blast

A suspected terrorist detonated an “improvised low-tech explosive device” inside a New York City subway passageway during Monday morning rush hour, injuring himself and three other people and causing chaos at one of the city’s key traffic hubs.

The device went off in the 42nd Street passageway between 7th and 8th avenues, and the suspect, later identified as Akayed Ullah, 27, was taken into custody, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.

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NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : A New York Police Department (NYPD) officer chats with citizens after blocking a road with 'Do Not Cross' tapes after an explosion occured at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : A New York Police Department (NYPD) officer allows a girl through 'Do Not Cross' taped street after an explosion occured at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : A New York Police Department (NYPD) officer chats with a girl after blocking a road with 'Do Not Cross' tapes after an explosion occured at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11 : New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Ertugrul Cingil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FBI and police respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
FBI and police respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A fire truck arrives after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A fire truck arrives after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Port Authority Police watch as people evacuate after a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and other first responders respond to a reported explosion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on December 11, 2017 in New York. New York police said Monday that they were investigating an explosion of 'unknown origin' in busy downtown Manhattan, and that people were being evacuated. Media reports said at least one person had been detained after the blast near the Port Authority transit terminal, close to Times Square.Early media reports said the blast came from a pipe bomb, and that several people were injured. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officers stand guard outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal after reports of an explosion in New York City, New York, U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers stand guard near Port Authority Bus Terminal after reports of an explosion in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
Police officers and FBI agents walk outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, U.S. December 11, 2017 after reports of an explosion. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Police officers and an FBI agent stand outside the New York Port Authority in New York City, U.S. December 11, 2017 after reports of an explosion. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
New York mayor Billl de Blasio (R) looks on as New York governor Andrew Cuomo holds a press conference in the wake of an explosion at the Port Authority in New York City, U.S. December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Police officers stand guard outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, U.S. December 11, 2017 after reports of an explosion. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 11: New York Police Department (NYPD) officers take security measures after an explosion occured at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, United States on December 11, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press briefing outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, December 11, 2017 in New York City. The Police Department said that one person was in custody for an attempted terror attack after an explosion in a passageway linking the Port Authority Bus Terminal with the subway. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: New York City Police Department officers and other first responders work the scene near the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, December 11, 2017 in New York City. The Police Department said that one person was in custody for an attempted terror attack after an explosion in a passageway linking the Port Authority Bus Terminal with the subway. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Ullah said he attempted the attack in the name of ISIS, and told investigators that he was angry over Muslims being killed around the world, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News.

In addition, he said he watched ISIS propaganda online and read other extremist writings like propaganda magazine "Inspire" and learned how to make the explosive online, according to the official.

But the explosive, which went off at about 7:20 a.m. in the busy underground tunnel near both the Times Square subway station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, did not fully detonate.

"Fortunately, the bomb was very low-tech. It did go off. It did not have the desired effect," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on MSNBC.

While initial reports indicated the bomb may have exploded prematurely, Cuomo said it hadn't.

"Our information is that he detonated the bomb. The explosive chemical in the bomb went off. It did not have the desired effect of causing the pipe itself to shatter, which would have caused the more significant damage," he said.

Related: NYC explosion suspect identified as Brooklyn man

Ullah was wearing the pipe bomb-based device, which was attached to his body with Velcro and zip ties, NYPD deputy commissioner John Miller said. Officials said Ullah was taken to Bellevue Hospital on Manhattan's East Side with burns and other wounds.

He and the three others who were wounded had injuries that were considered non-life-threatening, according to Fire Department officials.

Earlier, law enforcement officials told NBC News that the suspect was the only person hurt and that he had received a minor injury.

Ullah is a former taxi driver who was licensed from March 2012 to March 2015, according to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Multiple senior law enforcement officials said that he had several traffic tickets with the NYPD, although they didn't say when the tickets were from.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the explosion an "attempted terror attack" and said there were no additional known incidents.

"Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals. Thank God our first responders were there so quickly to address the situation," de Blasio said. He called the situation "incredibly unsettling" for New Yorkers, nearly 6 million of whom rely on the subway for their commutes every weekday. 

Ullah told investigators he planned the attack himself and was motivated by U.S. bombings in ISIS-controlled territory, multiple senior law enforcement officials told NBC News. He was not on law enforcement’s radar prior to this.

The incident, in the heart of the city, wreaked havoc for morning commuters. Emergency vehicles that stretched for blocks rushed to the scene, causing major evacuations in the massive transit hub. Subway lines were thrown into disarray, with at least 10 bypassing the Times Square and 42nd Street/Port Authority stops.

Cuomo said an explosion in a subway station is "in many ways, one of our worst nightmares," but said "the reality turns out better than the initial expectation."

"We're not going to allow them to disrupt us," he said. "That's exactly what they want, and that is exactly what they're not going to get."

Cuomo ordered increased security at high-profile locations around the state, including airports, bridges, and mass transit systems, later Monday.

With the area around Port Authority closed off, streets that would normally be bustling with commuters were eerily empty. Bystanders took photos with their phones as police and fire vehicles whizzed by.  

Two students said they were about to enter the subway on their way to school when they heard the noise.

"I was about to swipe in my card and out of nowhere, we heard a really loud bang. Everyone said, 'Get out, get out!'" Ali, 18, who declined to give his last name, said.

His friend Saidou Choudhury, 19, said the explosion "sounded like it was deep inside."

"I was traumatized," he said.

Another commuter, Isham Chowdhury, was on a bus bound for the Port Authority when the explosion went off. He said he got to the terminal about 10 minutes later.

"They were closing the entrance due to the attack. Everyone was calm, but we knew it wasn't normal," Chowdhury said. "The escalators were shut."

Simon Zamon, of Queens, sells coffee and pastries from a food cart several blocks from Port Authority, starting at 5 a.m. each day. He said many of his daily customers didn't stop by Monday morning.

"I lost a lot of customers today. My regulars come from New Jersey, Long Island, and Queens," he said.

The incident came a mere six weeks after a truck driver deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing eight people in the deadliest terror attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is the nation's largest, with about 230,000 passengers passing through it on a typical weekday, its website says.

President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The FBI in New York asked for anyone with information about it to contact them.


 

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