A week after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in New York City and injured four people, the New York Times ran a piece highlighting his charity work in Bangladesh.
The story, which ran on the front page Tuesday headlined “Subway Bomb Suspect’s Mysterious Act of Mercy,” reported that a few weeks before the attack, Akayed Ullah was helping Rohingya refugees who fled neighboring Myanmar for Bangladesh.
“After visiting relatives here in the capital city, Dhaka, he traveled across the country, slept in a mosque and under a tree, and passed out a few hundred dollars of medicine in the crowded refugee camps,” the Times said.
The story goes on to ponder Ullah’s motives:
That lonely trip across Bangladesh in September remains a mystery. Was Mr. Ullah following Al Qaeda, who had just urged Muslims to deliver medicine — and weapons — to the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group whose members have been raped, brutalized and massacred in neighboring Myanmar?
Or was he following his own heart, reflecting some sort of inner struggle as he headed toward his first known act of violence and self-destruction?
The Times said that while interviews with more than a dozen friends relatives and acquaintances of Ullah’s in Bangladesh and the U.S. described him as impulsive, angry, riveted to militant social media and outraged by injustices inflicted on Muslims, there were others who said he was “loving and giving.”
“He didn’t smoke, he didn’t misbehave, he was always cordial, he was the type of guy who couldn’t commit any crime,” said one of his high school friends.
Even though the Times didn’t completely ignore Ullah’s ISIS sympathies they still wanted readers to know he may have some redeeming qualities.