New York City subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

This undated file photo provided by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission shows Akayed Ullah, who was sentenced to life plus 30 years after being convicted of terrorism charges for setting off a pipe bomb in New York City's busiest subway station [File: New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission via AP]
Akayed Ullah

A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced to life in prison.

Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Islamic State when he detonated his homemade bomb on December 11, 2017. US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence on Thursday, called the attack a “truly barbaric and heinous crime”, the Reuters news agency reported.

No one died; however, four people including Ullah were injured in the explosion, which caused the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal, one of the main transit hubs in Manhattan. Ullah was wearing the bomb when he detonated it inside the subway station during the morning rush hour. He had attached it to his body with a combination of zip-ties and Velcro, a NYC police spokesman said at the time. The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician. US authorities treated the incident as a terrorist attack.

Prosecutors had said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Islamic State propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible in a “lone wolf” attack. Defence lawyers for Ullah had argued that a mandatory 35-year prison term was more than enough punishment, calling the attack an “aberration” in an otherwise peaceful life. The judge issued a sentence of life plus 30 years.

Ullah had a green card at the time of the attack. He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and infant son, who is now 3 years old, lived in Bangladesh. After the attack, Trump criticized the visa programme  that allowed Ullah to enter the US in 2011 because he had family there.

“Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security,” Trump said the day after the attack. Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.

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