Until this morning, few people had ever heard the name Akayed Ullah, but we’ll get to hear plenty about the erstwhile jihadi in the weeks and months to come. Who is this man, and how did Ullah decide to trade in his life for a fumbled shot at mass murder? Police this morning gave a brief sketch of Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant who may only have recently become radicalized:
NBC News filled in a few more of the blanks, as police attempted to do the same. They conducted a series of raids in Brooklyn following Ullah’s identification:
Ullah came to the United States from Bangladeshi with an immigrant visa on Feb. 21, 2011. He is a legal permanent resident with a green card.
A spokesman for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said he was a licensed cab driver from March 2012 to March 2015. More recently, he worked for an electrical company.
Soon after the explosion, police descended on at least three Brooklyn addresses connected to Ullah or his relatives — two in the Kensington section and one in Old Mill Basin.
According to this report, Ullah’s family had no idea what had happened. Expect that theory to get tested and possibly revised over the next several weeks, especially with this observation from one of Ullah’s neighbors:
A former Mill Basin neighbor said the suspect lived there with an older couple and two other young men. She said she would see him leaving the house with what appeared to be camera equipment and assumed he was on his way to work.
That may well be the case, but investigators will want to take a very hard look at the work Ullah did for the electrical company and the people who joined him in hauling equipment around. According to the Associated Press, police want to track his movements this morning before he ended up in the Port Authority bus terminal, especially with any surveillance video they can find. That is standard operating procedure anyway, but they will want to know just who might have dropped Ullah off, and anything else that potential accomplices might have tried to do.
Also, it appears that Ullah got his visa to the US on the basis of family connections:
A person briefed on the investigation said Ullah came to the U.S. on an F-4 visa, a preferential visa available for those with family in the U.S. who are citizens, and that he made the bomb in his apartment. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the blast.
Expect to hear a lot more about that in coming days, especially from the White House. Hopefully chief of staff John Kelly will convince Donald Trump to refrain from tweeting specifics about Ullah until a trial has been completed, but that detail will almost certainly bait Trump into using Ullah as an argument for his plans to reform immigration policies to end family preferences in favor of a merit-based system.
In a parallel to October’s truck attack in the Big Apple, though, immigration doesn’t seem t be the issue. Ullah had been here for years before becoming radicalized, or at least acting on it. What triggered this former cabbie into jihad? CNN’s source says it was … Gaza?
#BREAKING: A law enforcement sources says the NY suspect Akayed Ullah told investigators recent Israeli actions in Gaza are the reason he carried out this morning’s attack in New York City. @CNN @brynnCNN
— AnneClaire Stapleton (@AnneClaireCNN) December 11, 2017
Color me skeptical on this, and not just because Israel is merely responding to attacks from Gaza. If the clash in Gaza really bothered Ullah, why didn’t he launch an attack in 2014, when Israel conducted a full-blown war effort there against Hamas? Also, Hamas is an Iranian proxy, while Iran has gone nearly full tilt to destroy ISIS (mainly to prop up Assad and Abadi). Preliminary reports say ISIS was the inspiration for Ullah, although preliminary reports are not terribly reliable. Finally, what did New York City have to do with Gaza or Israel? The Big Apple is one of a handful of symbolic targets in regard to American economic power. That is why it keeps coming up as a target for ISIS and al-Qaeda, the latter of which might be more sympathetic to Hamas thanks to its alliance with Tehran.
Of course, Ullah could very well not be too bright, either. In fact, it’s practically a prerequisite for suicide bombers, and his incompetence in executing his plan provides even more evidence of that. Thankfully, this Fumblewear Bomber did most of his damage to himself, and let’s hope he spends the rest of his life in prison addressing his intellectual and moral deficiencies.
Update: So what did set him off, so to speak? According to WNBC, it was … holiday decorations:
Commissioner James O’Neill said Ullah “did make statements” about ISIS following the blast, which happened in a block-long tunnel between the Times Square subway station and Port Authority around 7:15 a.m.
When questioned, Ullah allegedly told investigators he intentionally detonated the device in that passageway because he noticed a holiday picture in the corridor and, angry over U.S. bombings in ISIS controlled territory, was inspired by ISIS-style Christmas threats, according to two law enforcement officials.
It doesn’t appear that it had anything to do with Gaza. It’s probably not about Christmas decorations, either. It appears that Ullah is a bitter idiot looking to make a name for himself. Fumblewear Bomber fits perfectly. Merry Christmas!
Update: As I predicted above, the Trump administration has seized on Ullah’s immigration status to promote their merit-based visa reforms. An e-mail from the White House with the subject “U.S. PERMANENTLY RESETTLED NEARLY 142K BANGLADESH NATIONALS ON BASIS OF FAMILIAL TIES” arrived just before this post went up, and argues:
In the last decade, the U.S. has resettled nearly 142,000 Bangladesh nationals on the basis of familial ties– that is a population larger than the population of Dayton, Ohio. A significant driver of this influx of family-based immigration is Chain Migration, the process by which foreign nationals permanently resettle within the U.S. and subsequently bring over their foreign relatives, who then have the opportunity to bring over their foreign relatives, until entire extended families are resettled within the country.
President Trump has called on Congress to End Chain Migration and Eliminate the Green Card Lottery. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has echoed that call, explaining that lawmakers must end Chain Migration in exchange for any deal granting work permits and federal benefits to illegal immigrants under the age of 36.
At least Trump hasn’t tweeted about it. Yet.