The main suspect linked to a series of bombings in the New York City area has been taken into custody. This followed a massive manhunt that had been launched for the New Jersey man.
Ahmad Khan Rahami has been taken in for questioning relating the Chelsea bombing that injured nearly 30 people on the night of September 17, the FBI says. He is also believed to be connected to two other blasts in his home state. On September 19, just after 11 a.m., Rahami was apprehended. Investigators are not looking for any other suspects at this point. He was later chared on five counts of attempted murder and two gun charges.
Rahami last lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where five explosive devices were found in a trash can Sunday night. No one was injured when one of the devices detonated as it was being investigated by a robot, officials said.
An IED, which was placed in a dumpster, and filled shrapnel including Christmas lights, exploded just after 8:30 p.m. on a busy Saturday night in one of New York City’s trendiest neighborhoods. Officials, including Mayor Bill De Blasio, confirmed on September 18 that the device used was a homemade explosive. It’s thought to have been detonated by a cell phone.
This came after a bomb that was placed in a garbage can close to where a charity run for Marines and sailors was taking place in Seaside Park, New Jersey, was also detonated on the same day with a cell phone.
Authorities believe the incidents in New York and New Jersey were connected, ABC News reports.
Anybody with any information about the explosion is asked to call 1800-577-TIPS. All of the 29 people injured have now been released from local hospitals after suffering minor injuries.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was Arrested in New Jersey After Being Found Sleeping in the Hallway of a Bar; a Shootout With Cops Ensued
Rahami, 28, was arrested in Linden, New Jersey, close to Elizabeth after a shootout with two police officers, reports ABC New York’s Liz Cho. One cop was shot in his bulletproof vest. While another is being treated for bullet fragments in the head, reports ABC’s Joshua Hoyos.
The suspect also received minor injuries during the altercation.
During the manhunt, FBI officials made it clear that Rahami was “to be considered armed and dangerous.” Cho later reported that Rahami had been sleeping in the hallway of a bar when he was discovered by the owner who then called the police.
Rahami is an American citizen who was born in Afghanistan in 1988, according to a wanted poster released on the morning of September 19 by the FBI. Rahami is 5′ 6” tall, weighs approximately 200 pounds and has brown hair, eyes and beard.
NBC New York reports that a fingerprint found on one of the explosives led to Rahami being identified as one of the suspects. A law-enforcement sources told the station, “He certainly seemed to do virtually nothing to cover his tracks.”
The FBI says anyone with information can “please contact the FBI’s Toll-Free Tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), your local FBI office, or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.”
The New Jersey State Police added that Rahami may “operating a 2003 Blue Honda Civic bearing NJ registration D63EYB.”
Rahami was identified with the help of a cell phone left on one of the devices, ABC News reports.
According to NBC News’ Pete Williams, authorities had been hunting for Rahami for 12 hours before his name was made public.
The NYPD and the FBI were investigating a suspicious Uber passenger who was in the area just prior to the bombing, reports PIX 11.
The station says that the passenger “left five shopping bags behind after being dropped off.” It adds that the passenger was picked up at 162 West 23rd street, the explosion took place at 135 West 23rd street. The car was investigated at 39th and Madison Avenue, reports PIX 11. The driver contacted the authorities on September 18.
CBS New York reports that surveillance video from the scene showed a man “dropping” an item close to a dumpster prior to the explosion. While CNN reported that the same person was seen close to the blast site about 40 minutes before the incident. That same person was seen at West 27th street where the second possible explosion was found. At 27th street, the person leaves behind a duffel bag. CNN says that after the person leaves, two other people show up and take a white garbage bag from the duffel bag. They then leave the bag on the sidewalk, according to CNN. Those people are considered witnesses.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill described the investigation as a “very complex post-blast investigation.”
The New York Times reports that officers could be seen “tearing apart” an Uber car on the night of September 18.
2. Five People Stopped on a New York City Bridge Are Members of Rahami’s Family, NBC News Reports
Late on September 18, the New York Post reported that investigators had stopped a car near the Verrazano-Narrows bridge linking Staten Island to Brooklyn. Senator Marty Golden said on Instagram that the traffic stop was related to the bombing. The Post added that five people were taken into custody in the stop and were questioned in an FBI building in Manhattan.
The New York Times reports that the suspects were mostly from the same family and “may” have been headed to JFK Airport.
According to NBC News, the five people are Rahami’s family members.
The New York Daily News reports that the SUV the five were traveling in contained a stash of weapons.
NBC News’ Tom Winter reported on Twitter that law enforcement officials are concerned there “MAY be an active terror cell” in the New York and New Jersey area. FBI officials denied that claim in a press conference on September 19.
None of the people in the car have been charged. They were brought to an FBI office for questioning, according to reports.
3. His Family Once Tried to Sue the City of Elizabeth for Discrimination
The FBI, ATF and other local and federal police raided a home Monday morning in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in connection to the investigation, the city’s mayor said. The home, where Ahmad Rahami’s family lives, is located above a fried chicken restaurant they own, according to the New York Times.
His father, Muhammad Rahami, runs the fried chicken restaurant, called First American Fried Chicken, below the family’s home. It opened several years ago, Mayor Christian Bollwage told the Times, and became a “persistent neighborhood nuisance,” according to the Times.
The restaurant stayed open all night, and drew large, loud crowds, Bollwage said. The city passed an ordinance forcing the restaurant to close at 10 p.m.
“The City Council voted to shut it down at 10,” Bollwage told the Times. “They kept getting complaints from neighbors; it was a distress to people in the neighborhood.”
Neighbors said the Rahami family did not comply, and in one case, one of Ahmad’s brothers got into a fight with an officer who came to close down the restaurant. He fled to Afghanistan before the case was resolved, according to the Times.
Muhammad Rahami filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming he’d been discriminated against because of his ethnicity, Bollwage said.
“It was neighbor complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,” the mayor told the Times. “It had to do with noise and people congregating on the streets.”
Bollwage told local reporters the search at the Elmora Avenue building is connected to the Chelsea bombing.
Hard drives and other evidence were found inside the home, NBC New York reports.
4. He Was Not on Any Terror Watch List & Studied Criminal Justice at a Local College
Ahmed Rahami was not on any terror watch lists or in any counterterrorism databases, Reuters reports. It is not known if he has a criminal record.
He was a student at Middlesex Community College from 2010 to 2012 in New Jersey, but did not graduate, the school told NBC News. He studied criminal justice.
Rahami has also lived recently in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, according to public records.
According to the Times, Ahmad Rahami eventually took over the day-to-day operations of his family’s restaurant.
“When it first opened it was the father 24 hours a day,” Ryan McCann, told the newspaper. He said Rahami then took over. “He’s a very friendly guy, he gave me free chicken. He was always the most friendly man you ever met.”
McCann said Ahmad Rahami wears Western clothes, and loves cars. McCann ate at the restaurant two weeks ago and said Rahami was talking about them.
“He always talked about fast Honda civics, about how he loved them,” McCann said. “He was having a conversation about his cars,” Mr. McCann said. “How he likes to soup ’em up and race ’em. He’s a guy you would never expect. This is sad, terrifying, scary.”
5. Rahami Was Seen on Surveillance Video Near the Scene of the Chelsea Blast, Police Say
All of the 29 people who were injured in the explosion have been released from local hospitals with minor injuries. Another device, a pressure cooker, was found four blocks from the 23rd street blast on 27th street. In 2013, the Tsarnaev brother detonated two pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. At the time of the bombing, Rahami was in Pakistan with his family. CNN reported that Rahami made regular trips to Afghanistan, the Middle East and other countries over the last few years.
The New York Times reports that both the 23rd street and 27th street bombs were filled with the same materials. The newspaper adds that both used the “commercially available compound called Tannerite.” An expert in the field of IEDs told the New York Times that:
Most of what we in the United States is a pipe bomb with black powder or smokeless powder or a simple hobby fuse. This would be the high-end of sophistication for IEDs in the United States.
ABC New York reports that investigators are still not sure if the Chelsea bomb was a pressure-cooker bomb. The station adds that the discovered pressure-cooker is “considered the best piece of evidence so far and the operating theory, which remains unproven, is the two incidents are related.”
In two separate press conferences, officials ruled out “international terrorism” as a motivation for the bombing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “A bomb exploding in New York is obviously an act of terrorism.” Later, on September 19, Mayor De Blasio admitted, “We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror.”
But on Monday, Cuomo told CNN there may in fact be a “possible foreign connection” to the bombings. He said the bombs found in New York and New Jersey have similarities.
Cuomo told CNN he, “wouldn’t be surprised if we found a foreign connection to the act.”
The New York Times reports that the second device was taken to the NYPD’s firing range in the Bronx and destroyed. Parts of the explosive will be sent to the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia. NJ.com reports that the devices discovered in Seaside Park will also be examined by the FBI.
The New York Times reports that initially authorities had denied links between the Seaside Park bomb and the Chelsea explosion. But officials are now indicating there is a link, along with a connection to the bombs found near an Elizabeth train station.
The Chelsea explosion came around 11 hours after a trashcan bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, according to the Associated Press. Nobody was hurt during that incident which took place prior to a charity 5k run for Marines and sailors. CNN reports that there was no damage to the area. The network adds that two bombs were found in the area but that only one detonated.
Another device was found in a trash can near the train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, by two men Sunday night. It detonated while it was being investigated by a bomb robot, but no one was injured.
Videos from the scene shows the moment of the blast (warning — language):
The NJ Transit station was evacuated and the surrounding area shut down after the “suspicious package,” was found Sunday night, NBC News’ Tom Winter reports.
The New York Daily News reports that three pipe bombs and two smaller devices were found at the Elizabeth train station.
The city’s mayor, J. Christian Bollwage, spoke to reporters at the scene, saying the suspicious devices were found about 9:30 p.m. on Broad Street and Julian Place, near the train station. The package was found in a “waste basket” by two men, Bollwage said.
“They took the package out of the waste basket because they thought it might be of some value to them,” Bollwage said. “(They) walked under the arch, or the railroad trestle, around the corner near an SUV, saw wires and a pipe, dropped the package, thought it was no good, went to police headquarters to notify the Elizabeth Police of what they just found.”
Bollwage said officers responded and found the package and “thought it could be a bomb.”