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ISIS New York Subway Bomber Gets Life Imprisonment

“Ullah’s motive was clear and unambiguous: a deeply held ideological hatred for America.”

akayed ullah

Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that AKAYED ULLAH was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to life in prison for carrying out a terrorist bombing attack on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”) in a subway station under the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City on December 11, 2017.  In November 2018, a jury convicted ULLAH after a one-week trial of all six counts in the Indictment.  The sentence was imposed by the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan, who also presided over the trial. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Akayed Ullah, previously convicted in a New York federal court of carrying out a lone-wolf bombing attack on behalf of ISIS at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a bustling transit artery in New York City, admittedly intended to murder as many innocent Americans as possible. Ullah’s motive was clear and unambiguous: a deeply held ideological hatred for America. 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.”

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said:  “Ullah constructed a pipe bomb and detonated it in a mass transit hub in the heart of New York City to harm and terrorize as many people as possible – and he admitted that he did it on behalf of ISIS. This case reminds us that the threat of ISIS-inspired terrorism remains real. This sentence holds Ullah accountable, as he will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for his crimes. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose outstanding work made this result possible.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Bound and determined to incite fear and create a mass casualty incident, Ullah detonated a pipe bomb of his own creation in one of New York City’s major transportation hubs during morning rush hour. The quick thinking of PAPD officers, who responded to the threat undeterred by the potential risk to their safety, in addition to the work of the FBI’s JTTF and the NYPD, is another example for the public of our joint commitment to keep the citizens and visitors of New York City safe. Today’s sentencing is a just ending in this case.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “Akayed Ullah accepted the call from ISIS to target and kill New Yorkers. Through planning and research, he built a pipe bomb and detonated it in the heart of the New York City Transit System under the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Fortunately, this cowardly act resulted in no loss of life to New Yorkers.  I commend the FBI agents and NYPD detectives of the JTTF, prosecutors from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and our other Law Enforcement partners for bringing this individual to Justice.”

As set forth in the Complaint, Indictment, evidence presented at trial, and other court filings and proceedings:

On December 11, 2017, at approximately 7:20 a.m., AKAYED ULLAH detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his chest in a subway station under the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan.  Shortly after the blast, first responders located ULLAH lying on the ground in the station where he had detonated the improvised explosive device, and he was taken into custody.  Surveillance footage captured ULLAH walking through the station immediately prior to the explosion, and then detonating the bomb.

ULLAH began radicalizing in about 2014.  ULLAH was angry at U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and began seeking out online materials promoting radical Islamic terrorist ideology.  In particular, ULLAH 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.  ULLAH 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.    

Following the attack on December 11, 2017, law enforcement located remnants of the pipe bomb on ULLAH’s person and strewn across the attack site in the subway station.  Law enforcement found, among other things: (i) a nine-volt battery inside ULLAH’s pants pocket, which he used as the power source for triggering the bomb; (ii) wires connected to the battery and running underneath ULLAH’s jacket; (iii) plastic zip ties underneath ULLAH’s jacket, which he used to strap the bomb to his body; (iv) several fragments of a metal pipe, which ULLAH had filled with an explosive substance that he made using sugar and match heads; (v) fragments of Christmas tree lightbulbs attached to wires, which ULLAH used to ignite the explosion; and (vi) numerous metal screws.  ULLAH filled his pipe bomb with dozens of metal screws to function as shrapnel, for the purpose of causing maximum damage.

On the morning of the attack, shortly before detonating his bomb, ULLAH posted a statement on Facebook referring to the then-President of the United States, stating: “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”  ULLAH also posted an ISIS slogan so that ISIS would know that he had carried out the attack on behalf of ISIS.

After ULLAH was taken into custody following the attack, he waived his Miranda rights and spoke to law enforcement.  ULLAH stated, 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.”  One commuter who was inside the station when ULLAH detonated the pipe bomb suffered a shrapnel wound to his leg, and two other victims partly lost their hearing as a result of the blast.  ULLAH’s 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.

After the attack, law enforcement searched ULLAH’s apartment pursuant to a search warrant.  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 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.

Later in December 2017, while in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on the charges in this case, ULLAH began chanting “more is coming” at a correctional officer, and then told the officer: “You started this war, we will finish it. More is coming, you’ll see.”

*                      *                      *

In addition to the prison term, ULLAH, 31, was sentenced to life of supervised release.   

 Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI, the NYPD, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.  ULLAH’s conviction is the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies. 

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebekah Donaleski and George D. Turner are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorneys Jason Denney and Felice Viti of the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

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