NYC bomb suspect charged
FBI checked out Rahami in ’14 amid father’s concerns
NEW YORK — Bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was charged Tuesday with planting a series of explosives in New York and New Jersey, including one that injured more than two dozen people when it blew up on a busy Manhattan street.
A federal criminal complaint was unsealed Tuesday as more details emerged about the Afghan-born U.S. citizen’s past, including the disclosure that the FBI had looked into him in 2014 but came up with nothing.
Before t he f ederal charges were filed, Rahmani, 28, was already being held on $5.2 million bail, charged with the attempted murder of police officers during the shootout that led to his capture Monday outside a bar in Linden, N.J.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Rahami had a lawyer who could comment on the charges. He remained hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the leg, forearm and shoulder.
Federal agents have attempted to question Rahami in the hospital. But Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who received a classified briefing from the FBI, said Rahami was not cooperating.
The FBI’s 2014 inquiry began after his father expressed concerns his son might be a terrorist, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. During the inquiry, the father backed away from talk of terrorism and told investigators that he simply meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, including gang members, and acting like a thug, the officials said. A window on West 23rd Street in Manhattan shows the effects Tuesday of shrapnel from a bomb that exploded Saturday.
In any case, the FBI checked its databases and other sources and closed the inquiry in a matter of weeks after seeing nothing tying the Afghan-born U.S. citizen to terrorism, three law enforcement officials said.
Also Tuesday, investigators disclosed that when Rahami was shot and captured, he had a journal with him that contained extremist ramblings.
“Inshallah (God willing), the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death To Your OPPRESSION,” were some of the words scrolled in the journal, which was damaged during the Monday shoot- Rahami out. “My heart I pray to the beautiful wise ALLAH. To not take JIHAD away from (me). I beg...for shahadat (martyrdom).”
In their chargi ng document, federal authorities said they have recovered a cellphone video, shot two days before the Chelsea bombing, that appears to show Rahami blowing up a cylindrical container at or near his home in Elizabeth, N.J. FBI agents said they found Rahami’s fingerprints on the bomb and related materials left in Chelsea. Agents said they also are relying on surveillance video that showed a man who appears to be Rahami walking near the scene of the Chelsea explosion.
Federal agents believe that two cellphones used in the attacks were shipped to and probably purchased from a store just 500 yards from Rahami’s residence.
Finally, the federal arrest warrant also details the purchase of several possible bomb-making components on eBay.
Investigators are looking into Rahami’s overseas travel, including a visit to Pakistan a few years ago, and want to know whether he received any money or training from extremist organizations.
Rahami’s father, Mohammad Rahami, spoke with the FBI after the younger Rahami was charged in 2014 with stabbing his brother, according to the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Rahami was not prosecuted in the stabbing; a grand jury declined to indict him.
Rahami’s father told reporters Tuesday outside the family’s fried-chicken restaurant in Elizabeth that he called the FBI at the time because Rahami “was doing real bad,” having stabbed the brother and hit his mother. “But they checked, almost two months, and they say, ‘He’s OK, he’s clear, he’s not terrorist.’ Now they say he’s a terrorist,” the father said. Asked whether he thought his son was a terrorist, he said: “No. And the FBI, they know that.”
The FBI said it had opened up an “assessment,” the least intrusive form of an FBI inquiry. Justice Department guidelines restrict the types of actions agents may take; they cannot, for instance, record phone calls without obtaining a higher level of approval or developing more grounds for suspicion.
“In August 2014, the FBI initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute t hat were subsequently reported to authorities,” the bureau said in a statement. “The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism.”