DHAKA: Bangladesh police scrambled on Tuesday for details about alleged New York subway bomber Akayed Ullah, but uncovered few early leads that might shed light on what might have driven him to try and kill commuters with a homemade bomb.
US police say the 27-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh set off a crude bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York subway passage on Monday but the device failed to detonate properly, leaving him the only one seriously harmed.
Ullah told police investigators he wanted to avenge US air strikes on the Islamic State group and was also inspired by Christmas terror plots in Europe, US media reported.
Bangladesh police are investigating whether Ullah was radicalized in his Muslim-majority homeland, where foreigners have been among those targeted in deadly assaults claimed by the IS group and Al Qaeda.
“So far, his name is not on our wide-range list of radicalized persons or members of terror groups, both from Bangladesh and outside,” senior counter terrorism police officer Sanwar Hossain told Agence France-Presse.
“We are trying to gather more details,” he said.
US authorities say Ullah migrated seven years ago as the member of a family already living there under what is known as “chain immigration.”
But a police spokeswoman in Bangladesh said preliminary investigations suggested the family left “17 or 18 years ago.”
Bangladesh authorities are unclear exactly when Ullah left, but speculated he could have been shuttling back and forth between the two countries.
“Maybe he was 10 or 11 years old (when the family left for the US),” police spokeswoman Sahely Ferdous told Agence France-Presse, adding Ullah’s “development of thinking” likely took place there.
Bangladesh police said Ullah’s family hailed from Sandwip, an island off the coast of the southern port city of Chittagong but his father had left for the capital Dhaka some 30 years ago.
Visited Bangladesh in September
A friend of the family told Agence France-Presse that Ullah married two years ago, but did not take his wife to the US.
“His wife lives in Hazaribagh neighbourhood in Dhaka, where the family lived for the last three decades, and where his father ran a grocery shop. They were married in 2015,” Sazzad Hossain Mukul, a friend of Ullah’s mother, told Agence France-Presse.
He said Ullah visited Bangladesh in September, and spent a month with his wife.
Police confirmed the date of his last visit, but could not say whether Ullah was married.
“We are questioning one of his relatives for more information,” Chittagong police chief Noor-e-Alam Mina told Agence France-Presse. Ullah was born in Dhaka and spent at least his early years in the capital, Mina added.
The impoverished riverine nation of 160 million has been waging a war against homegrown extremism in the wake of numerous attacks by radical groups in recent years.
In July last year militants stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in an assault claimed by the IS.
Security forces have shot dead more than 70 alleged militants in a fierce crackdown since the cafe carnage.
Bangladesh last month arrested an alleged militant from Ansarullah Bangla Team, a homegrown extremist group with links to Al Qaeda, over the 2015 murder of a prominent Bangladesh-origin American blogger in Dhaka.
The secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to root out extremism but says international radical groups do not operate inside Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh embassy in Washington DC condemned the New York bomb attack and restated Bangladesh’s “zero tolerance” approach to extremism.
“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,” the embassy said in a statement. AFP