NYC bomb sus­pect charged

FBI checked out Ra­hami in ’14 amid fa­ther’s con­cerns

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Eric Tucker, Larry Neumeister and Jen­nifer Peltz Los Angeles Times con­trib­uted.

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.”

MARK LENNIHAN/AP

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