Homeland Security

2015 al-Qaeda Article Showed How to Build NY Christmas Bulb Bomb

Akayed Ullah was charged Tuesday with terrorism offenses in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as detailed in the complaint that describes a homemade explosive device just like instructions offered in an al-Qaeda magazine more than two years ago.


Ullah, 27, a lawful permanent resident from Bangladesh who lived with his family in Brooklyn, is accused of setting off the improvised explosive device during Monday morning rush hour in Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. There were three injuries that consisted of ringing ears or headaches, and Ullah was burned on his abdomen from the pipe bomb detonation.

The criminal complaint says Ullah told investigators “I did it for the Islamic State,” while news stories cited law enforcement sources saying Ullah told them he had also read al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine and found the bomb-making instructions online.

“The Pipe Bomb was comprised of a metal pipe, which Ullah filled with explosive material that he created,” the complaint states. “Ullah used Christmas tree lights, wires, and a nine-volt battery as a trigger to detonate the Pipe Bomb. Ullah filled the Pipe Bomb with metal screws, which he believed would cause maximum damage. Ullah used zip ties to secure the Pipe Bomb to his body.”

The summer 2015 issue of Inspire featured, in a step-by-step tutorial from “The AQ Chef,” a homemade IED recipe consisting of a pipe packed with shrapnel, a 9v battery, wires, and a Christmas light in the circuit to put a three-second delay on the explosion. Per the instructions, the Christmas bulb — al-Qaeda used a green light in their example — is altered and filled with explosive powder to act as a delayed ignitor.


(Al-Qaeda Inspire magazine)

Inspire, which is published in English and circulated widely online, features more practical how-to advice for jihadists than ISIS publications, with explicit directions geared toward novices for making a variety of devices.

The al-Qaeda example used a 1.5-inch elbow pipe packed with metal hex nuts for the shrapnel. Al-Qaeda recommended that jihadists “test the circuit using a Christmas lamp before connecting the wires to the fuse”; for this, they chose a red bulb.

The magazine showed test photos with the device spraying shrapnel during the explosion. Officials said Ullah erred in not packing the bomb tightly enough, so when it detonated only the ends of the pipe blew off. The al-Qaeda article doesn’t warn about this potential miscalculation in the section on filling the pipe with shrapnel and explosive powder.

Ullah arrived in the United States in 2011; the complaint says his radicalization began about 2014. “Ullah viewed pro-ISIS materials online, including a video instructing, in substance, that if supporters of ISIS were unable to travel overseas to join ISIS, they should carry out attacks in their homelands. He began researching how to build IEDs on the Internet approximately one year ago,” the complaint added, noting that on the morning of the attack Ullah posted on his Facebook page the message “Trump you failed to protect your nation” along with “a statement that he believed would be understood by members and supporters of ISIS to convey that Ullah carried out the attack in the name of ISIS.”


“Ullah carried out the Dec. 11 Attack in part because of the United States Government’s policies in, among other places, the Middle East. One of Ullah’s goals in carrying out the Dec. 11 Attack was to terrorize as many people as possible. He chose to carry out the attack on a work day because he believed that there would be more people.”

ISIS, which stresses that they want jihadists to die during attacks or escape rather than be arrested, has not yet claimed the attack as their own.

Recovered from Ullah’s residence, the complaint states, were “multiple pieces of metal pipes; pieces of wire and fragments of what appear to be Christmas tree lights; multiple screws consistent with the screws recovered at the scene of the December 11 Attack; and a passport in Ullah’s name with multiple handwritten notations, including: ‘O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.'” That’s a favorite slogan of ISIS trolls.

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