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New York City explosion was ‘attempted terrorist attack’

Click to play video: 'Security video purportedly shows moment of explosion in New York City transit hub'
Security video purportedly shows moment of explosion in New York City transit hub
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Video shows alleged explosion of improvised device in New York City’s major transit hub. – Dec 11, 2017

A suspect is in custody after an explosion hit a major New York City transit hub during Monday morning’s rush hour in what officials say was an attempted terrorist attack.

Authorities responded to a “terror-related incident” in midtown Manhattan at about 7:20 a.m. ET.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) said units were responding to reports “of an explosion of unknown origin” at the city’s Port Authority transit terminal.

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At morning press conference, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the suspect, identified as Akayed Ullah, 27, intentionally detonated a “low-tech” device at the terminal.

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“Preliminary investigation at the scene indicates this male was wearing an improvised device, low-tech explosive device attached to his body,” O’Neill said. “He intentionally detonated that device.”

The commissioner said three people in the immediate area suffered minor injuries as a result of the explosion.

The explosion happened in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between 7th and 8th avenues. The blast caused smoke to fill the passageway, which was crowded with throngs of morning commuters.

“Let’s be clear, as New Yorkers, our lives revolve around the subways. When we hear of an attack on a subway it’s incredibly unsettling,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”

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Citing law enforcement sources, the Associated Press reported the suspect said he was inspired by the Islamic State group but had apparently not had any direct contact with the group.

The city’s police commissioner said at the morning press conference the suspect “did make statements” when asked about ties to the terrorist group, but O’Neill declined to comment further.

Video from social media showed dozens of first responders near Manhattan’s Times Square, while the Port Authority terminal was temporarily evacuated.

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Investigators closed the Port Authority terminal, but the transit hub has since reopened.

The police commissioner said the explosion was captured on transit video and investigators are interviewing witnesses while a background check on the suspect is being conducted by the joint terrorist task force.

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The purported video shows a busy underground pathway moments before the explosion and then smoke filling the path. A man is then seen lying on the ground as passersby scrambled from the area.

This photo from a 2011 driver’s license shows Akayed Ullah, the suspect in the explosion near New York’s Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. New York Department of Motor Vehicles via AP

Authorities said Ullah sustained burns and injuries from the explosion and was transported to hospital.

Authorities said Ullah sustained burns and injuries from the explosion and was transported to hospital. Citing unnamed law enforcement officials, the Associated Press reported the suspect lives at a Brooklyn address and came to the U.S. from Bangladesh in about 2011.

Bangladeshi officials told Reuters Ullah had last travelled to his home country in September and had no criminal record.

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Click to play video: 'Pennsylvania woman describes sitting in restaurant at NYC transit hub during moment of explosion'
Pennsylvania woman describes sitting in restaurant at NYC transit hub during moment of explosion

Authorities said there were no other credible threats to the city.

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Ullah had a black cab/limousine driver’s license from 2012 to 2015, after which it expired, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission said.

A woman who works in the terminal told NBC News she didn’t hear the blast but said there was panic in the moments after.

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“All we could hear was the chaos,” the witness said. “”We could hear people yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!'”

The White House said U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed on the explosion.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday afternoon that Ullah entered the U.S. on a preferential visa for people with relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents visa in 2011, and called for immigration reform.

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The Bangladeshi government also issued a statement on Monday condemning the attack.

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“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,” a spokesman for the country’s embassy in Washington said in an emailed statement.

Monday’s incident comes less than two months after a man plowed a rental truck down a bicycle path on Manhattan’s west side, killing eight people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the truck attack.

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*with a file from Reuters

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