Afghanistan-Born Chicken Shack Worker Wanted for Weekend Bombings Is Charged with Five Counts of Attempted Murder After He Was Captured in a FBI Shootout
Ashley Collman et al., Daily Mail, September 19, 2016
Hours after being arrested in a shootout with police, the man wanted in connection to a series of bombings in the New York City-area this weekend has been charged.
Ahmad Khan Rahami faces five counts of attempted murder and two gun charges, law enforcement officials said Monday afternoon.
The 28-year-old was arrested around 11am on Monday, after a bar owner in Linden, New Jersey found him passed out in the vestibule of his business and called 911.
When police arrived on the scene, Rahami brandished a weapon and started shooting at the cops–injuring four. Officers shot Rahami in the right shoulder and he was taken from the scene in an ambulance, handcuffed to a stretcher.
Police released Rahami’s picture Monday morning, saying he was wanted for questioning in connection to the Saturday bombings in New York City and Seaside Park, New Jersey, as well as the foiled bombing of the Elizabeth, New Jersey train station on Sunday.
Law enforcement say it was fingerprints left behind on an unexploded pressure cooker bomb in Manhattan that led them to Rahami. Twenty-nine people were injured when another bomb placed a few blocks away was detonated Saturday night.
Rahami wasn’t on any terror watch lists but a childhood friend said that he started to change after going on a ‘life-changing’ trip to Afghanistan two years ago.
Now that Rahami is in custody, investigators are now looking into whether he acted alone or was perhaps working with or for a larger terror network. All indications currently suggest that the series of attacks was a lone wolf attack, authorities said at an afternoon press conference.
A childhood friend who spoke with the Boston Herald said that Rahami began to change after a trip to his home country two years ago.
‘At one point he left to go to Afghanistan, and two years ago he came back, popped up out of nowhere and he was real religious,’ Flee Jones, 27, said. ‘And it was shocking. I’m trying to understand what’s going on. I’ve never seen him like this.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted at the conference that there’s ‘every reason to believe this was an act of terror’.
According to the FBI’s wanted poster, Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan.
Earlier Monday, FBI agents stormed Rahami’s apartment in Elizabeth. The apartment is located above First American Fried Chicken, a restaurant that Rahami’s family owns.
Elizabeth was also the site of a foiled bomb plot on Sunday, after police found and deactivated five pipe bombs at the local train station.
Neighbors told DailyMail.com that the family who live in the building had recently changed the way they dressed.
One witness said: ‘Up until recently they wore regular clothes like us and then they started dressing in their culture’s clothes.
DailyMail.com also revealed that Rahami sued his local police force in 2011 for discrimination. The lawsuit claimed that the local police tried to shut down their fried chicken business early every night, even though they have a special license to keep it open late. Ahmad his father Mohammad Sr, 53, and his brother Mohammad, brought the lawsuit together and said that local residents also racially abused them and said: ‘Muslims don’t belong here’.
At a press conference on Monday, the mayor of Elizabeth revealed that the city had won the lawsuit.
‘It was neighbor complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,’ the mayor said. ‘It had to do with noise and people congregating on the streets.’
Diners who ate at the restaurant say Rahami appeared to be taking over responsibility for the business from his father.
Patron Ryan McCann says he has only positive memories of Rahami.
‘He’s a very friendly guy, that’s what’s so scary,’ McCann told the BBC.
‘I come in here about once every week or two, just to get something to eat. He’s always in there. They never seemed out of the ordinary, they just Americanized.
‘You would’ve never knew anything. He’d always talk about his cars. He loved Civics, he loved going fast, that’s what he did, he’d talk about his cars,’ McCann said.
Another diner said that one of Rahami’s brother once got into a fight with a police officer who came to shut down the restaurant by 10pm. That brother allegedly fled to Afghanistan before he could be prosecuted for assaulting an officer.
Twenty-nine people were injured Saturday night when a pressure-cooker bomb exploded inside a dumpster in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
Surveillance video reportedly shows the same man, believed to be Rahami, dropping off a bomb on that street, as well as another street where an unexploded IED was later found.
After dropping off a duffel bag at the second location on 27th street, two other men are seen taking a white garbage bag out of the duffel bag and placing it on the street. It’s believed that the trash bag contained the second pressure cooker bomb. Authorities are now looking to speak to the other two men in the surveillance video, to see if they may be tied to the attempted attack. According to reports, the two men may have been thieves who made off with the duffel bag and left the trash bag behind.
Late Sunday, two homeless men found a backpack inside a trash can near the Elizabeth, New Jersey train station–about a mile from the Rahami’s fried chicken restaurant. The two men took the backpack to a train track underpass and opened the bag, finding five pipe bombs inside. The frightened men then ran to police and reported the bag.
Police worked overnight to disarm the devices, but one of them exploded when a police robot cut a wrong wire. While the blast startled law enforcement, no one was injured in the blast.
In addition to the bombing in Chelsea, and the thwarted attack at the Elizabeth train station, a pipe bomb was also detonated at a military charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey early Saturday morning. No one was injured in that incident.
In an interview on CNN Monday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the bombs have similarities suggesting ‘there might have been a common linkage’.
Cuomo had said Sunday that there was no evidence to suggest that the bombing was related to international terrorism, but he appeared to walk that back Monday.
‘Today’s information suggests it may be foreign related, but we’ll see where it goes,’ he said.