Ullah was not on the radar of law enforcement prior to Monday’s blast, officials say.
“On the way to carrying out the December 11 attack, Ullah posted a statement on his Facebook account that stated, ‘Trump you failed to protect your nation,'” according to a federal court complaint filed by Special Agent Joseph Cerciello with Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The five-count complaint charges the Brooklyn resident with bombing a public place, use of a weapon of mass destruction, providing support for the Islamic State, destruction of property by fire or explosives and use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the attack Tuesday in calling on Congress to tighten immigration rules. Ullah came to the U.S. in 2011 on an F-4 visa that’s available for immigrants with relatives who are U.S. citizens — the “chain migration” program Trump has vowed to end.
Lee Francis Cissna, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, also cited issues with the visa lottery at a White House press briefing.
“Because the criteria are so low, either you have no education at all and very little skills, or you have a minimum of education and no skills at all,” he said. “And because it’s a lottery, pretty much anybody on the planet who’s from a qualifying country can take advantage of this.”
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said at a news conference Tuesday that Ullah “came to kill, to maim, to destroy,” and expected to die in the explosion. He had no respect for American “virtues,” Kim added.
“Ullah will find here another great American virtue, and that is justice,” Kim said. “And that justice will be tough, it will be fair, and it will be swift.”
Ullah’s first court appearance is expected to be a “bedside presentment” by video conference from Bellevue Hospital on Wednesday, Kim’s office said. The bomb suspect was being treated for burns and cuts to his abdomen and hands suffered in the blast. Three passersby suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Ullah, 27, could face a sentence of a life term in prison if convicted on the use of weapons of mass destruction charge.
He admitted to investigators that he built the pipe bomb loaded with metal screws, saying he was inspired by the Islamic State, according to the court complaint.
Authorities say the bomb only partially detonated, a misfire that may have saved many lives.
“Ullah carried out the December 11 attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East,” the complaint stated. Ullah hoped to “terrorize as many people as possible” and conducted his attack on a workday hoping to impact more people, the complaint alleged.
Ullah’s radicalization began as far back as 2014, the complaint said. He viewed online material of the Islamic terror group ISIS, “including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands,” the complaint said.
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Ullah began searching the Internet about a year ago for information about building improvised explosive devices, the complaint charged.
Federal investigators who searched the accused terrorist’s Brooklyn home recovered material that potentially could be used to produce other bombs. The list included metal pipes, pieces of wire and fragments of what appeared to be Christmas tree lights and multiple screws consistent with the screws found at the bombing scene.
Also found was a passport with the name Akayet Ullah that featured multiple handwritten notations, including “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE,” the complaint alleged.
Kim characterized that statement as “chilling.” While declining to discuss the suspected intent behind Ullah’s Facebook post about Trump, Kim said Ullah told investigators he had “issues” with “American Middle East policies.”
Earlier Tuesday, the New York City Police Department announced that Ullah faced state charges including criminal possession of a weapon, supporting an act of terrorism and making terroristic threats.
Ullah detonated the device, which was strapped to his body, in the crowded pedestrian tunnel Monday typically used by thousands of riders from 10 subway lines around 7:20 a.m. ET, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. The device apparently failed to completely detonate, even though investigators said Ullah had some experience with electrical work.
Ullah had not been on the radar of law enforcement prior to Monday’s blast, John Miller, NYPD’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and intelligence, told CBS This Morning. He said Ullah did not appear to have been struggling financially or facing any other particular pressures.
“He was somewhat characteristic of what we’ve been seeing across the world, which is someone who turns up one day out of the blue,” Miller said. Authorities have described Ullah as a lone wolf who was inspired by the Islamic State, a common theme in recent attacks, Miller said.
“The conspiracy is within the confines of their own mind,” Miller said. “That’s a very hard place to get to.”
The city’s morning commute ran smoothly Tuesday, and the pedestrian tunnel where Ullah detonated the pipe bomb was open and crowded with commuters.
A statement released Monday night by relatives said Ullah’s family is deeply saddened by the suffering the attack has caused — but also outraged by the way family members were targeted by law enforcement. The statement said a teen relative of Ullah was removed from class and questioned without a parent, guardian or attorney present.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, police have been questioning Ullah ‘s wife and other relatives, Banglanews24 reported Tuesday. Ullah’s wife, Jannatul Ferdous Jui, 25, lives there with the couple’s 6-month-old son, the news outlet reported.
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY