Following a shootout with police, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a naturalized American of Afghani descent, was arrested Monday in Linden, New Jersey, in connection with a series of bombings in New York and New Jersey last weekend.
As of late Tuesday he’d been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. Two officers were wounded in the gunfight that ended with his arrest.
People who know him said Rahami, 28, had made several lengthy visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the trips seemed to have radicalized him.
As of Tuesday, Rahami was the lone suspect in an explosion caused by a homemade pressure cooker in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night that injured 29 people. He was also believed to be connected to another unexploded pressure cooker bomb found nearby in Manhattan as well as a pipe bomb that exploded in a garbage bin in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, on Saturday that appeared to target a charity race for members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
On Sunday night, authorities found five pipe bombs near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that they believe are connected Rahami, who lived a short distance away where he worked in his family’s fried chicken eatery.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI looked into Rahami two years ago after his father called with concerns that his son might be a terrorist, a law enforcement official said Tuesday. But the father retracted the claim and told investigators he meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd.
The FBI checked its databases and found nothing connecting Rahami to terror groups, the official said.
The father had contacted the FBI after Rahami was charged with stabbing his brother, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Reaction from elected officials varied in the aftermath of the Manhattan bombing.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hinted the attacks appeared to have been terror operations directed by foreign elements.
President Obama released a statement to the American people in which he addressed the bombings but did not use the word “terrorism.”
The two major party presidential candidates addressed the attack as well. Republican nominee Donald Trump warned that the bombings were a sign of the current administration’s weakness against terror. “We’re weak. Under Obama and Clinton’s watch America has suffered more attacks at home than it has achieved triumphs overseas. We need to change that.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton declared that “this is a real threat, but we won’t be cowed by it.” In a press conference in New York, she added that “we will protect our country and we will defeat terror.”
Following the announcement Monday morning that Rahami was a suspect, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had pointedly avoided calling the attacks terrorism, said the investigation was “definitely leading” in the direction of terrorism.
Meanwhile, in another incident on Saturday, a man who made reference to Allah and asked at least one person if he were a Muslim, stabbed and wounded nine people inside a Minnesota mall. On Sunday, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Authorities are still investigating the incident.
Addressing the weekend attacks, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said it’s important to avoid political correctness
“To me, it’s why the NSA is important. It’s why surveillance of communities where these threats could coming from is important, why we can’t allow overconcern about civil liberties to get in the way of solid law enforcement,” King told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Let’s not let political correctness stop the police and the FBI from doing the investigations that they have to do. I have used the example many times, when you’re going after the Mafia, you go to the Italian community, Irish communities when you are looking for the Westies. And right now, if the threat is from Islamist terrorism, we go to Muslim communities. You don’t look for the Ku Klux Klan in Harlem.”
King said it may take several days to learn definitively whether there is a homegrown or international terrorist link to the bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey.
He said regardless of the motivation, Americans have to realize that “we are always vulnerable to these type of attacks.”
(JNS, INN, CNS, Jewish Press staff)