Authorities in Bangladesh said Tuesday that alleged subway bomber Akayed Ullah was not on the country’s terror list and are not sure when he left his homeland.
“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.”
The 27-year-old immigrant is accused of setting off a crude explosive device strapped to his body in a passageway between the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Times Square subway station, according to police.
The homemade bomb failed to detonate properly, leaving him the only one seriously harmed.
Ullah told investigators that he wanted to avenge US airstrikes on the ISIS and also was inspired by Christmas terror plots across Europe.
Bangladesh police are investigating whether he was radicalized in his Muslim-majority homeland, where foreigners have been among those targeted in deadly assaults claimed by ISIS and Al Qaeda.
American officials said Ullah immigrated seven years ago as the member of a family already living in New York City 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,” according to AFP.
Bangladesh authorities speculated Ullah 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 AFP, adding Ullah’s “development of thinking” likely took place there.
Bangladeshi officials 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 about 30 years ago.
A family friend told AFP that Ullah married two years ago, but did not take his wife to the US.
“His wife lives in Hazaribagh neighborhood in Dhaka, where the family lived for the last three decades, and where his father ran a grocery shop,” Sazzad Hossain Mukul, a friend of Ullah’s mother, told AFP.
He said Ullah spent a month with his wife when he visited Bangladesh in September. 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,” said Chittagong police chief Noor-e-Alam Mina, adding that Ullah was born in Dhaka, where he spent at least his early years.
The Bangladesh embassy in Washington, DC, condemned Monday’s attack and reiterated 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.