Ashley Collman et al., Daily Mail, September 20, 2016
The father of chicken shop terrorist Ahmad Khan Rahami warned authorities about his violent son two years ago–but they still didn’t put him on a terror watch list.
Mohammad Rahami Sr appeared outside his apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey on Tuesday and spoke to reporters in broken English, saying he called the FBI out of fears his son might be radicalizing after violent outbursts including incidents when he stabbed his own brother Nasim and hit his stepmother.
The claims raise concerns that law enforcement could be responsible for letting Rahami slip under the radar.
Paired with his frequent travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the domestic violence claims may have made him the perfect candidate for a terror watch list.
Mohammad Sr told reporters: ‘Two years ago, I call the FBI. My son he’s doing really bad, ok?
‘But they checked it almost two months. He’s ok. He’s clear. He’s not… terrorist. Now say he’s a terrorist. I say ok.
‘For no reason, because he stabbed my son and hit my wife. And I took him to jail two years ago.’
Law senior enforcement sources told the New York Times, that the FBI opened an investigation after Mohammad complained to the agency that his son might be a terrorist.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force opened an assessment of Rahami, which is the most basic of FBI investigation.
Agents interviewed his father but he later recanted his statements, saying he had made them out of anger for the 2014 stabbing. It’s unclear if they spoke to Rahami. Eventually, investigators closed the case after finding ‘no clear evidence or indications of radicalization,’ according to sources who spoke to ABC News.
Investigators are currently looking into whether the 28-year-old was working alone or with others.
While Mohammad’s father has spoken with the press twice in the last two days, other members of his family have been silent.
Questions have been raised over who may have known about the plot. His mother and wife left the US for the Middle East before the attacks.
Rahami’s wife left for Pakistan just days before the bombings, and was stopped by officials in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, a popular stopover for flights between the U.S. and the Middle East. It’s still unclear whether she was allowed to travel on to Pakistan, was held in the UAE or returned to the U.S, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rahami’s mother also left for Turkey three weeks before the attacks, and has not yet returned to the U.S., an official told ABC News.
Five other family members who were pulled over and taken into custody as they crossed the Verrazano-narrows Bridge into Brooklyn on Sunday night have been released. At the time, it was alleged that the five people were armed and en route to JFK Airport. Officials refused to say whether charges could be filed against those five individuals.
Rahami’s own travel to and from Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years is raising questions with federal investigators about whether he may have become radicalized or even trained by a terror group.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Rahami wrote about Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki in a notebook found on his person when he was arrested. The American-born cleric has been cited as the inspiration for many homegrown terrorists in the U.S.
The notebook also contained writings sympathetic to jihadist causes. An official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the New York Times, that in a section of the book which was pierced by a bullet Rahami wrote of ‘killing the kuffar’, which is an unbeliever.
Authorities say Rahami has made at least three trips to Afghanistan. He also visited Pakistan, where he met and married his wife.
Authorities told CNN that Rahami had spent a year, between 2013 and 2014, in Pakistan where he traveled to the city of Quetta–a hotbed of extremism. While there he stayed with family in refugee camps, authorities confirmed. He also visited Karachi in 2005, and an unknown region in 2011.
The most recent trip took place in 2014, when he petitioned NJ congressman Albio Sires to help him get his then-pregnant Pakistani wife a visa. Rep Sires says he wrote to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan and was able to speed up the process for Rahami’s wife, whose passport had expired.
The style of bombings in Seaside Park, New Jersey and the Chelsea neighborhood remind investigators of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Investigators believe Rahami may have been trying to mimic Boston Bombing brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who also used bombs made from pressure cookers. In both cases, the bombers had recently returned to their home countries.
Detectives are currently investigating whether Rahami’s brother in Afghanistan could have been linked to the atrocity.
The 28-year-old has been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and two gun charges after he was captured in an FBI shootout following the terror attacks in New York and New Jersey over the weekend. Bail has been set at $5.2 million and he remains in hospital after being shot while being taken into custody. So far, his Miranda Rights have not been read to him and the FBI continues to investigate the bombings before officially charging him in connection to those incidents. However, he is tentatively scheduled to appear in front of a judge on September 28 for the shootout charges.
Almost 30 people were injured in the devastating Manhattan attack in the upscale neighborhood of Chelsea on Saturday evening.
Shortly before the blast, a man believed to be Rahami was seen on surveillance footage walking down 23rd Street in Chelsea, dragging a wheeled bag behind him. That bag, police say, contained the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker explosive which he used in the attack.
An unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found blocks away and police say they were able to link the fingerprints on the homemade explosive to Rahami.
Authorities have now revealed that a note found near to the unexploded device, written in Arabic, mentioned the Boston bombings.
Police released Rahami’s picture Monday morning, saying he was wanted for questioning in connection to the New York City bombing and a pipe bomb which blew up Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity race to benefit Marines. Rahami was also wanted for the foiled bombing of the Elizabeth, New Jersey train station on Sunday.
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 and went to wake up the sleeping man, the action was immediate.
‘He reached to his left side and right away, he pulled out a gun and shot at him,’ Merdie’s bar owner Harry Bains said of Rahami. ‘It was fast. It happened in like 15 or 20 seconds.’
Bains said that the suspect shot twice, smashing through the window, and hitting one of the cops.
The terrified bar owner, who says he was ‘shaking a little’ dived for cover but as he saw Rahami start to run away, he said: ‘I opened the door and yelled at the cop. I said, “He’s the guy you guys have been looking for, he’s the guy.”‘
Police officers Angel Padilla, Peter Hammer and Mark Kahana were all injured in the line of duty during the shootout until one of the officers shot Rahami and he was taken from the scene in an ambulance, handcuffed to a stretcher. According to his bandages, it appears he was shot in the right shoulder and the right leg.
He continues to recover from the injury in the hospital after undergoing surgery on Monday. None of the officers’ injuries were critical. The mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey said that one of the officers injured in the shooting had been shot in the vest while another cop suffered an injury to his head caused by a piece of glass.
Pictures from the scene show a man appearing to be Rahami laying on the ground, his shirt pulled up exposing his bulky physique, with his hands retrained behind his back.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, FBI Special Agent William F. Sweeney said that Rahami had not been on their radar for terrorism. However, he was accused of domestic abuse ‘some time ago’–allegations which were later recanted.
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.’
According to the FBI’s wanted poster, Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan. His family moved to the U.S. as asylum seekers in 1995, when he was seven years old.
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.
Ahmad and the other men working in the shop had largely worn Western clothing–although his father’s wife wore the hijab–until recently, one local, who did not wish to be identified, told Dailymail.com.
‘Up until recently they wore regular clothes like us and then they started dressing in their culture’s clothes,’ they said.
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. 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.’
Despite the legal battle with the local government, Rahami seemed to many to be quite Americanized.
As a boy at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, he was a ‘class clown’ who messed around with classmates and talked sports, a friend told Buzzfeed News.
‘He was in my 9th grade English class,’ Hakeem Ezzouhairy, 27, of Maplewood, said. ‘Very funny, class clown. Got along with everyone, was a very nice kid.
‘Never would I [have] thought years later he would be capable of something like this.’
He even fell in love with one of his classmates, Maria, who he had a daughter with while still in school. Classmates remembered that Maria was heavily pregnant at prom.
Maria herself spoke to FoxNews.com and said she hasn’t spoken with her ex-boyfriend in years, and had to sue him for child support for their daughter.
After high school, Rahami also studied criminal justice for two years at Middlesex County College before quitting his degree. Criminal justice is a typical major for people interested in joining the police force.
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 were 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.
One woman who lives in the street said: ‘Mohammad [Ahmad] is a very nice man, always wearing white and he would pray in the back of the shop.
‘I would wait at the counter for him to finish and he would come and take the orders.’
She said that during a visit to the shop in the last few weeks, she had seen two new men behind the counter who she had never seen before and that Ahmad Rahami was cooking food in the back of the store.
A young teenage boy who often worked in the store served her.
She said the other men who were behind the counter spoke to Ahmad Rahami in a language the young boy didn’t understand.
Another neighbor said that the father was always in the shop working, and that the other brothers were not seen as frequently.
Of the father, the neighbor said: ‘He was clearly very devoted to his religion. He was very quiet and seemed very nice. You would see him praying sometimes.’
One friend told CNN that Rahami’s father had wanted him to go back to Afghanistan to learn discipline.
Amarjit Singh, a limousine driver and high school friend of the bomber, said there had been a lot of tension between Rahami and his strict and traditional father.
Singh told the New York Times that Rahami at high school had been a popular teen, who wore jeans and sweatshirts like his Western friends but also listened to music from Afghanistan and would go to the Mosque to pray once a week.
His lifestyle would often bring the teen into confrontation with his religious father–particularly after Rahami had a child with unmarried Maria in high school
‘The two of them would argue,’ Singh said. ‘There seemed to be a lot of tension.’
A neighbor to the family, former Marine Jonathan Wagner, told Haaretz that he’d known the family for two decades and went to school with Rahami’s brother Nasim.
He claimed that the bomber’s father was from the dangerous Kandahar region of Afghanistan, and used to fight as a Mujahadeen against the Soviets in the 1980s, in the same militia as Osama Bin Laden.
A Mujahedeen is the term for one engaged in Jihad, or holy war. There is no evidence that Mohammad Snr. engaged in any terror-related activities.
Wagner said that Mohammad Snr. used to say the Taliban was ruining Afghanistan. The Taliban was quick to deny any ties to the terror attacks in New York and New Jersey.
NJ.com reported that one of Rahami’s brothers posted radical material on his social media accounts.
‘A man believed to be Rahami’s brother posted videos celebrating the preaching of Anwar al-Awlaki,’ as well as another post accusing the U.S. or orchestrating 9/11.
The site said someone of the same name as Rahami posted an image of foreign fighters training in Syria along with a quote by Khalid Bin Walid, named in the Koran as a military commander and companion of the Prophet Muhammad.
The quote reads: ‘I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life.’
Twenty-nine people were injured Saturday night when a pressure-cooker bomb exploded inside a dumpster in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
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.
On Sunday, a federal law enforcement official said the Chelsea bomb contained a residue of Tannerite, an explosive often used for target practice that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores. The discovery of Tannerite may be important as authorities probe whether the two New York City devices and the pipe bomb at the Jersey shore are connected.
Cellphones were discovered at the site of both bombings, but no Tannerite residue was identified in the New Jersey bomb remnants, in which a black powder was detected, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to comment on an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
There was no immediate word on whether the devices in Elizabeth were similar to those in nearby Seaside Park or New York City.
Officials haven’t revealed any details about the makeup of the pressure cooker device, except to say it had wires and a cellphone attached to it.
Rahami is currently being held on $5.2 million bail. Police say he is refusing to cooperate with the authorities.