In less than 24 hours, authorities say a would-be suicide bomber's botched attack on a Manhattan transportation hub underneath Times Square became an open-and-shut case after a search of his apartment and hearing the suspect's his own words.
Akayed Ullah, 27, who's expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday, made it clear from a hospital bed where he was being treated for burns from a pipe bomb he strapped to his body that he was on a mission to punish the United States for attacking the Islamic State group, said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim. A search of the Bangladeshi immigrant's apartment turned up bomb-making materials, including screws matching those found at the scene intended as carnage-creating shrapnel. It also turned up a passport in his name, scrawled with the words "O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE," authorities said.
"His motivation," the prosecutor said, "was not mystery."
At a news conference, Kim said Ullah picked a rush hour on a weekday to maximize casualties in his quest "to kill, to maim and to destroy."
Ullah was influenced by the sermons and writings of a radical Muslim preacher, but appeared to have no known links to local radical groups, Bangladeshi officials said Wednesday.
Ullah mocked President Donald Trump on Facebook on his way to carry out the attack, writing "Trump you failed to protect your nation," authorities said.
Ullah with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose," carried out the attack after researching how to build a bomb a year ago and planned his mission for several weeks, Kim said.
The bomb was assembled in the past week using fragments of a metal pipe, a battery and a Christmas tree light bulb, along with metal screws as shrapnel, authorities said. They said it was strapped to his body with wires and zip ties.
The device did not fully detonate, and Ullah was the only one seriously hurt in the Monday morning attack.
The defendant "had apparently hoped to die in his own misguided rage, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, but through incredible good fortune, his bomb did not seriously injure anyone other than himself," Kim said.
Ullah was charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, use of a weapon of mass destruction and three bomb-related counts. He could get up to life in prison. His court-appointed lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
According to the court papers, Ullah started to become radicalized in 2014 and began researching how to build a bomb after watching ISIS propaganda materials online, include a video urging supporters to carry out attacks in their home countries. Law enforcement officials said there was no evidence he had any direct contact with the militants.
On Wednesday afternoon, two law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York that Ullah had given authorities the password to his phone so they could search it for evidence.
In reaction to the bombing, the president demanded a tightening of immigration rules.
Ullah entered the country in 2011 on a visa available to certain relatives of U.S. citizens. Less than two months ago, an Uzbek immigrant who came to the U.S. through a visa lottery was accused of killing eight people in New York by mowing them down with a truck along a bike path.
"We're going to end both of them - the lottery system and chain migration. We're going to end them fast," Trump said at the White House.
Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Bangladeshi community, residents said. He was licensed to drive a livery cab from 2012 to 2015, but the license was allowed to lapse, officials said.
He "was living here, went through number of jobs, was not particularly struggling financially or had any known pressures," John Miller, the New York Police Department's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, said Tuesday on CBS. He added that Ullah "was not on our radar at NYPD, not on the FBI radar."
Overseas, Bangladesh counterterrorism officers questioned Ullah's wife and other relatives, officials said. Relatives and police said Ullah last visited Bangladesh in September to see his wife and newborn son.