Subway bomber wounds self, three victims in New York

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Law enforcement officials work following an explosion near New York's Times Square on Monday. (AP)
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Emergency vehicles at the scene
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Emergency vehicles at the scene
Updated 12 December 2017
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Subway bomber wounds self, three victims in New York

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man set off a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York City commuter hub during the morning rush hour on Monday, officials said, immediately calling it an attempted terrorist attack.
The suspect, Akayed Ullah, 27, was taken to a hospital after suffering burns from the explosive device, which was attached to his body with Velcro and zip ties and did not fully ignite, officials said. Investigators told Reuters they believe the attack in midtown Manhattan was intended to be a suicide bombing.
The blast, which occurred around 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) in a busy underground passageway between the subway station underneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Times Square subway station, sent commuters fleeing for the exits and police officers rushing to the scene, as officials scrambled to reroute trains and shut down streets.
Three people, including a police officer, suffered minor injuries.
The attack came just six weeks after police say an Uzbek man, Sayfullo Saipov, plowed a truck through a crowd of pedestrians along a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing eight in an act for which Islamic State later claimed responsibility. In September 2016, a man injured 31 people when he set off a homemade bomb in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
In recent years, numerous people claiming to be inspired by Islamic State have carried out attacks across Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
A law enforcement official familiar with the Ullah investigation said investigators have found evidence that he watched Islamic State propaganda on the Internet.

’AMATEUR-LEVEL’
The weapon used in Monday’s attack was “amateur-level,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference near the explosion site. He told CNN the homemade bomb may not have fully ignited, possibly limiting the damage.
Officials said the attempted bombing underscored New York City’s status as a target for such attacks, citing the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed more than 2,750 people in New York and nearly 3,000 people in all, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people.
“Let’s be clear, as New Yorkers, our lives revolve around the subways,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “And let’s also be clear, this was an attempted terrorist attack.”
In a statement, President Donald Trump said the attack emphasized the need for US immigration reforms.
“America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” he said.
The president also criticized the visa program that allowed Ullah to enter the United States in 2011 because he had family members already in the country, saying such family visas are “incompatible with national security.”
Ullah lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn and was a green card holder, said Shameem Ahsan, consul general of Bangladesh in New York.
Authorities did not immediately comment on Ullah’s motives. When asked whether Ullah had claimed any connection to Islamic State, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said, “He did make statements but we’re not going to talk about that right now.”
Several US officials familiar with the investigation told Reuters there was no immediate information indicating Ullah was previously known to any American spy or law enforcement agency for any connection to militants or terrorism, though a connection could still be found.
Ullah is from the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong and is a US resident, said the country’s police chief. He had no criminal record there and last visited Bangladesh on Sept. 8, the chief said.
Ullah had a black cab/limousine driver’s license from 2012 to 2015, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission said.
Monday’s incident was captured on security video, police said. Video posted on NYPost.com showed smoke and a man lying in a long tunnel that connects sections of the sprawling Times Square subway station. A photograph showed a man lying facedown, with tattered clothes and burns on his torso.

’EVERYBODY WAS SCARED’
The explosion turned a normal start to the work week into a chaotic scene.
“There was a stampede up the stairs to get out,” said one commuter, Diego Fernandez. “Everybody was scared and running and shouting.”
The bus terminal was temporarily closed, and a large swath of midtown Manhattan was closed to traffic. Subway travel was disrupted but later returned to normal.
In December, New York experiences a surge of visitors who come to see elaborate store window displays, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and Broadway shows.
More than 200,000 people use the Times Square station, the city’s busiest, each weekday, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Ten train lines stop at the station.
The bus terminal is the busiest in the United States, according to the Port Authority. On a typical weekday, about 220,000 passengers arrive or depart on more than 7,000 buses.
The bus terminal is adjacent to and above the subway station’s western section. A long, narrow underground tunnel connects that part of the station to its eastern section, and is used by thousands of commuters during rush hour.
The incident rippled through American financial markets, briefly weakening stock markets as they were starting trading for the week and giving a modest lift to safe-haven assets such as US Treasuries.
Technology and energy stocks closed higher Monday, helping Wall Street shake off uncertainties following the explosion.

 


Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull, fighting for political life, dumps tax policy

Updated 27 min 52 sec ago
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Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull, fighting for political life, dumps tax policy

  • Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton challenged Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday in a vote by the Liberal Party
  • Turnbull’s decision to dump his unpopular plan to cut corporate tax rates to 25 percent from 30 percent was seen as an attempt to curry favor with colleagues
CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s grip on power slipped further on Wednesday when he was forced to abandon his centerpiece tax policy and a conservative rival in his own party canvassed support for an imminent second challenge.
Turnbull’s legislative agenda crumbled around him this week as he first watered down his main energy policy and then withdrew planned tax cuts for corporations, at the same time as he fought off a growing challenge from former home affairs minister Peter Dutton.
Dutton challenged Turnbull on Tuesday in a vote by the Liberal Party, the senior partner in the center-right government coalition, that likely marked the beginning of the end for Turnbull.
Turnbull won the party-room vote 48-35 but the narrow margin of the victory made another challenge almost certain in a country that has earned a reputation for a revolving door of political leaders, with six prime ministers since 2009.
Dutton, who needs to win over only seven more colleagues to become leader, said he was already canvassing party support for another tilt at Turnbull, possibly as early as this week.
“I’m speaking to colleagues,” Dutton told 3AW Radio.
“If I believe the majority of colleagues support me then I will consider my position,” he said.
Deepening speculation about Turnbull’s future, Governor-General Peter Cosgrove canceled travel plans and will remain in Canberra this week, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.
Cosgrove is British Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Australia and would need to be on hand to swear in a new prime minister if Turnbull was ousted, or to accept Turnbull’s request to dissolve parliament if he decides to call an early election.
The next election is due by May.
Australian newspapers echoed the frustration many voters feel over the constant leadership changes.
“It would be kinder to voters and more in the national interest if Mr. Turnbull drove to Yarralumla (Cosgrove’s official residence) and called an election a year early,” The Sydney Morning Herald wrote in an editorial.
“The big risk is that he might be shafted even before he got to the end of the driveway,” it said.
The internecine Liberal Party strife has been a boon for the opposition Labour Party, who find themselves in the enviable position of having to do little more before the next election than sit back and watch their opponents crumble.
Labor used Question Time in parliament on Wednesday to ask seven of the nine Cabinet ministers who voted for Dutton whether they still supported Turnbull.
All seven had tendered their resignations to Turnbull, who refused them in an attempt to show unity and later said he had been given “unequivocal assurances of continuing loyalty.” Dutton and one other opponent were allowed to leave the ministry.
Turnbull’s decision to dump his unpopular plan to cut corporate tax rates to 25 percent from 30 percent was seen as an attempt to curry favor with colleagues.
His plan echoed that of US President Donald Trump but, with record corporate profits and stagnant wage growth, the policy has proved widely unpopular with voters.
“It is clear that the policy was never going to be an election-winning one. There has been some concern within the backbench about policy, it will show them that he is listening,” said Rod Tiffen, emeritus professor of political science at Sydney University.
The upper house Senate rejected the policy on Wednesday and Turnbull said soon after he would no longer pursue it.
“We will not be taking the tax cuts for larger companies to the next election,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Despite Turnbull offering an olive branch, further political instability is all but guaranteed in the final two days parliaments sits before it breaks until September.
The turmoil has upset Australia’s financial markets, with the main stock market down nearly 0.5 percent on Wednesday to a nine-day low.
Turnbull came to power in a party-room coup in September 2015 over former premier Tony Abbott, who also survived an internal leadership contest before his eventual defeat.
A social liberal and multi-millionaire former merchant banker, Turnbull rode an early wave of popular support but he has struggled to appeal to conservative voters and only narrowly won an election in 2016.
Progressive supporters have also been disappointed as they watched government policies shift to the right as Turnbull tried to appease a powerful right-leaning backbench.
Dutton, a hardline conservative who carved out his reputation overseeing Australia’s harsh immigration policy, is unpopular with moderate voters, raising the possibility that a third, centrist candidate might still emerge.