A would-be suicide bomber's rush-hour blast in the heart of the New York City subway system failed to cause the bloodshed he intended, authorities said, but it gave new fuel to President Donald Trump's push to limit immigration.
Hours after Monday's explosion in an underground passageway connecting two of Manhattan's busiest stations, Trump cited the background of the bomber in renewing his call for closer scrutiny of foreigners who come to the country and less immigration based on family ties.
The man arrested in the bombing, Akayed Ullah -- who told investigators he wanted to retaliate for American action against Islamic State extremists -- came to the US from Bangladesh in 2011 on a visa available to certain relatives of US citizens.
"Today's terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security," Trump said in a statement that called for various changes to the immigration system.
Earlier, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump's proposed policies "could have prevented this”, reports The Associated Press.
In a scenario New York had dreaded for years, Akayed strapped on a crude pipe bomb with Velcro and plastic ties, slipped unnoticed into the nation's busiest subway system and set off the device, authorities said.
The device didn't work as intended; authorities said Akayed, 27, was the only person seriously wounded.
"This is one of my nightmares ... a terrorist attack in the subway system," Gov Andrew Cuomo told cable channel NY1. "The good news is: We were on top of it."
Law enforcement officials said Akayed looked at IS propaganda online but is not known to have any direct contact with the militants and probably acted alone. Cuomo said there was no evidence, so far, of other bombs or a larger plot. The Democrat said officials were exploring whether Ullah had been on authorities' radar, but there was no indication yet that he was.
Since 1965, America's immigration policy has centred on giving preference to people with advanced education or skills, or people with family ties to US citizens and, in some cases, legal permanent residents.
Citizens have been able to apply for spouses, parents, children, siblings and the siblings' spouses and minor children; the would-be immigrants are then screened by US officials to determine whether they can come.
Trump's administration has called for a "merit-based" immigration system that would limit family-based green cards to spouses and minor children.
Akayed lived with his father, mother and brother in a Brooklyn neighbourhood with a large Bangladeshi community, residents said. He was licensed to drive a livery cab between 2012 and 2015, but the license was allowed to lapse, according to law enforcement officials and New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission.
His family was "deeply saddened" by the attack but also "outraged by the way we have been targeted by law enforcement," the family said in a statement sent by the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A teenage relative was pulled out of class and questioned in school without a parent, guardian or lawyer, the statement said.
Bangladesh's government was quick to condemn the subway attack.
"Bangladesh is committed to its declared policy of 'Zero Tolerance' against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning's incident in New York City," the government said in a statement.
“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice.”
The incident also drew a chorus of condemnation from the Bangladeshi community in the United States.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, several Bangladeshis living in the US, particularly in New York,slammed the violent incident and said the terror attack has badly embarrassed the entire community.
The incident has created a sense of serious uncertainty among the Bangladeshi expatriates, especially among those who are inthe process of being legalised, students pursuing higher studies and those living there with limited permission as they fear wholesale harsh action by the US administration.
“Akayed Ullah is a devil and he has brought shame on all of us [Bangladeshis] in the US…. He has embarrassed Bangladesh,” Mohammad Shahidul Islam, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, wrote in his Facebook status.
Bangladeshi journalist Darpan Kabir, who has been living in New York for the past several years and publishes a newspaper from there, in aFacebookpost termed the incident a crime against humanity.
Many over the phone and in messages said Bangladesh community living in the US should stand boldly against any act of terrorism.
“Though Akayed Ullah was born in Bangladesh, he is a black sheep and an insect of sewer…. He cannot be a Bangladeshi because Bangladesh is the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Poet Nazrul and Bangabandhu,” Kamal Hossain Mithu wrote on Facebook.
There is a common feeling among the community that the Bangladesh government should vigorously conduct probe at home and also cooperate with the US government for averting any such incident in future.
The expats also said Bangladesh government should immediately talk with the Trump administration so that the innocent Bangladeshis living in the US do not fall victim to any action.
Students who are pursuing higher studies in different parts of the US, who are intending to come home on vacation, are scared whether they would be allowed to go back to the US after their vacation.
Asked about the situation of Bangladeshi community after Monday's incident, Shameem Ahsan, consul general at the Bangladesh Consulate in New York, said, “We remain in touch with the US side and our diaspora.”