Expatriates have expressed concern over the alleged involvement of Bangladeshi immigrant Akayed Ullah with Monday’s attempted terrorist attack at New York City’s main bus terminal.
The incident has spread fear and panic among the Bangladeshi community living in New York. On top of that, the incident has caused embarrassment, expatriate journalist Sohel Mahmud has said.
Akayed, 27, detonated a homemade bomb strapped to his body at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a block from Times Square, the New York Police Department said.
Three people were injured while the suspected bomber is in serious condition at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York.
Port Authority Bus Terminal is the biggest and busiest bus terminal in the world.
Mahmud said the NYPD had confirmed Akayed’s identity. “Fear has gripped the Bangladeshi community after the incident. Such events spread panic among the people,” he said in an interview with the Bangla Tribune (BT).
“Since he (Akayed) was a taxi driver, the incident has caused more panic among the taxi drivers. Many of my friends, relatives and acquaintances, who are involved in this profession, have expressed concern.
“It is really a scary situation. Anxiety has spread among members of the Bangladeshi community,” Mahmud said.
He said he believed that this would harm the reputation of the Bangladeshi community.
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“[President] Trump had proposed an immigration ban but the court rejected it for various reasons. But the Trump administration is reintroducing the ban. There are rumours that Bangladesh is on the list. Such incidents (NYC attack) strengthen such rumours,” he said.
Akayed emigrated to the US on a family visa in 2011. He had no criminal record in Bangladesh which he last visited on September 8, the government said.
Trump has taken the attack to drum support for his immigration ban, which, the White House said, would have prevented the attacker from entering the US.
Mahmud said police were trying to confirm who Akayed met in Brooklyn or with whom he spent time.
“Local media claimed that he had had meetings with various leaders of the Bangladeshi community. The investigators are trying to confirm the matter,” he said, adding that the security forces are trying to find out people Akayed had contacts with.
Akayed’s brother has been detained from his Brooklyn residence (East 2nd, house 110) by law enforcement agency for questioning, shortly after Monday’s explosion.
“Police surrounded the house and picked up his (Akayed's) brother. I learned the matter from Bangladeshi workers who were working at a site close to that house,” Mahmud said.
The journalist was about 18.5km away from the site of the explosion. He said it did not take much time to travel to the spot via train or subway. During his interview over phone, he said he was going to Brooklyn Avenue M and East 48 street where police had cordoned off a house.
BT: You live in New York. How far were you from Manhattan when the explosion took place. How far are you now?
Mahmud: The place I live is about 11.5 miles away from the site of the explosion. But it does not take long to travel to the spot. You can easily go there by train or subway.
BT: Are you going there now?
Mahmud: I am not going to the spot now. I am going to Brooklyn Avenue M and East 48 street where police have surrounded a house. Earlier, Akayed’s brother had been picked up from their East second’s house 110. Akayed had come to the US with his parents, brother, and sister. One of his brothers probably lives here. Police detained his brother this morning. Bangladeshi construction workers, who were working near the house, have informed me.
BT: As far as we have learned, he hails from Chittagong. Has there been any confirmation that he was from Sandwip?
Mahmud: Police have only confirmed that he is Bangladeshi. But his passport has his detailed address. But it has now become a secondary matter to the police. It is up to them to decide whether to publish the information or not.
Local media is quoting police in their reports to say that he (Akayed) had had meetings with Bangladeshi community leaders in Brooklyn. But police are trying to confirm the matter and are looking for information. This is now an important matter for the police. The investigation agencies are trying to learn names of persons Akayed was in touch with.
BT: As far as we have learned, he used to drive a cab. There are many members of the Bangladeshi community there [who are involved in the profession]. What has been their reaction?
Mahmud: Very bad. Here, green or yellow taxis are not important. In New York, there are numerous limousine or white cars that do not have any taxi signs. Akayed used to drive one of these cars. He was given a licence for 2012 to 2015.
And since he drove taxis, panic has gripped other taxi drivers. Many of my friends and relatives, who are involved in the profession, have expressed concern. It is truly a terrifying situation. There is Bangladeshi the community, Swandip community - everyone is worried and anxious.
BT: Will the Bangladeshi community face any trouble or be slandered through this incident?
Mahmud: It is already happening. This is a huge blow for us. You know how Trump had introduced an immigration ban that was struck down by the court for various reasons. The Trump administration changed it a bit and reintroduced the policy, which we call travel ban.
We have been hearing that the ban list would include Bangladesh. So, when such incidents take place, such rumours and panic spreads.
I would like to make an observation. The explosion was not on any massive scale. Police said the bomb was homemade and that the boy had suffered minor injuries in the blast. It’s honestly ridiculous.
But this has thrown the community in fear. The other three persons injured in the explosion, had received minor injuries. But, even if the incident is small, its impact is huge.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune