New York police intensified security around the city on Monday after a man apparently inspired by ISIL detonated a bomb strapped to his body in a pedestrian passageway linking subway platforms near Times Square.
Officers said four people were injured when the improvised bomb exploded underground during the morning rush hour. Times Square is one of Manhattan’s busiest passenger interchanges.
The perpetrator, identified by police as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, was in custody at a hospital on Monday night, receiving treatment for burns and other wounds.
James O’Neill, New York Police Department commissioner, said at a briefing:
"Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates this male was wearing an improvised, low-tech explosive device attached to his body.
“He intentionally detonated that device.”
Law enforcement officials said Ullah was from the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong and was a US. He had no criminal record there and last visited Bangladesh on September 8.
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City officials said they believed he was acting alone and that there was no further threat.
The city was already on high alert for terror attacks after eight people were killed when another ISIL-inspired attacker ploughed a rented van into cyclists on a bike path in October. At this time of year, tourists also throng the city's shopping streets in the build-up to Christmas.
Reports suggested the suspect had assembled the bomb at the electrical company where he worked. His Brooklyn home and workplace were being searched for evidence of terror ties.
The explosion, which happened at about 7.20am, set off a huge emergency response, bringing the city’s busy transport system to a halt at a major passenger interchange including subway routes and the Port Authority bus terminal.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said president Donald Trump had been briefed on the explosion.
Commuters described hearing the blast echo through the area.
Francisco Ramirez said he heard two bangs as he was getting off a bus.
“It was two distinct explosions seconds from each other,” he told CNN. “As I was making my way toward the outside, I kept getting shoved by cops and there were cops at every entrance blocking and there was police and Swat everywhere.
“It was scary. It was just a lot of chaos but I didn't see any injuries.”
City officials expressed relief that the attack was not worse.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, said: “As New Yorkers our lives revolve around the subways. When we hear of an attack on the subways it is incredibly unsettling. And let’s be clear: This was an attempted terrorist attack."
“Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”