New York City was targeted Monday morning by a suspected Islamist extremist who detonated an improvised explosive device (IED), injuring himself and three innocent bystanders. The 27-year-old man, who, preliminary reports suggest, is originally from South Asia, is now in custody. Officials in New York have confirmed that this was a terrorist attack, inspired by the Islamic State.
The incident took place at approximately 7:40 am. The suspect detonated what was described as a “low-tech explosive device” in an underground passage connecting the New York Port Authority transit hub to Times Square.
Improvised, ISIS-Inspired Attack
Initial reports described the device as a pipe-bomb and it was later confirmed that the pipe was attached to an improvised ‘suicide vest’ worn by the suspect, identified as Akayed Ullah. Authorities are now investigating Ullah’s background to determine whether he had any known connections to extremist groups. According to Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, Ullah had been in the United States for seven years, was possibly from Bangladesh and “was supposedly setting the device off in the name of ISIS.”
The Islamic State, which has all but been crushed as a cohesive paramilitary force, had recently vowed to attack New York during the Christmas period.
The suspect sustained extensive burns but the three bystanders are said to have suffered non-life-threatening injuries. One was treated at the scene and two were transported to nearby hospitals.
Living With Terrorism
As with several previous terror attacks in the United States, the incident is a reminder that radicalized individuals are willing to improvise attacks against civilian targets, using a variety of object or devices ranging from vehicles and firearms to home-made IEDs. At a press conference following the attack, New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill stated that 26 terror plots “that can be discussed” had been prevented in the city.
Notably, there was no hesitation on the part of authorities or New York’s political leaders in identifying Monday’s incident as a terrorist attack.
Ideology is the Real Enemy
No amount of surveillance, intelligence gathering or security can prevent all such attacks. There will be more and the American public is faced with the stark reality that heightened awareness has become a necessity. Fear of accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ should not prevent members of the public from reporting suspicious behavior.
As the nation comes to terms with the certainty of future attacks, America’s Muslim community is also faced with a harsh truth; that it must take an active role in resisting Islamist extremism – including a willingness to turn in those who become radicalized – or, itself, live under a permanent cloud of suspicion.
The eradication of terrorism is impossible without the eradication of the ideology that inspires it. Ideology cannot be killed on the field of battle and Islamism cannot be defeated while political correctness stands in the way of confronting it. Schools and Mosques must be the battlegrounds of this particular war and Muslim and non-Muslim alike will have to live with that reality.