NYC, NJ bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami in custody, charged with attempted murder for police shootout

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
NYC, NJ bombing suspect in custody, charged in police shootout
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Ahmad Khan Rahami, the 28-year-old man believed to be behind weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, has been taken into custody following a shootout with police.

NEW YORK -- The man believed to be behind weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey was taken into custody Monday morning following a shootout with police.

Law enforcement sources said Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was captured following gunfire in Linden, New Jersey. Two police officers were also wounded in the shootout and are expected to recover. Neither sustained life-threatening injuries, police said, as the officer in the car suffered a glancing blow and was cut by shattered glass. Rahami underwent surgery for his injuries and is in police custody at a hospital.

Rahami was charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer Monday afternoon, in relation to the shootout that preceded his arrest, according to Union County Prosecutor Grace Park. He was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Bail was set at $5.2 million.

Rahami was found after the owner of a local bar discovered him sleeping in a hallway Monday morning. Believing him to be a vagrant, the business owner contacted police.

"At approximately 10:30 this morning, the owner of one of the establishments in town reported that there was an individual sleeping in his hallway," Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said. "One of our police officers went to investigate, to wake him up, and realized that he was the suspect that has been sought in the other bombings that had occurred prior."

VIDEO: Ahmad Khan seen running down the street

"When the officer tried to rouse the man in the doorway, when the man picked up his head, he noticed that the man had a beard and he looked like the suspect being sought," Linden police Captain James Sarnicki said. "So he told him to show (him) his hands, and the suspect had his hand on his side...he pulled out a handgun, and he fired a shot at the officer, striking him in his bullet-proof vest in his abdomen. At that point, the officer returned fire."

Authorities say the suspect then took off down the street, firing indiscriminately until other officers took him down.

After the arrest, as details flowed in, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio identified the incidents as terrorism.

"We have every reason to believe this is an act of terror," he said. "It will be an ongoing investigation, and I want people to be vigilant."

Authorities say that the investigation is ongoing, particularly when it comes to the hunt for accomplices or other incidents. But officials stressed they are not seeking anyone in particular at this time, and the FBI says they have "no indication" that Rahami was part of broader cell.

Sources say that federal prosecutors have already drafted charges against Rahami, and they could be announced as early as Monday. It is unclear exactly what the charges would be, but sources say they are likely related to use of IEDs.


A U.S. official told ABC News Rahami was born in 1988 in Afghanistan, came to the U.S. in 2000, and former classmates say he attended Edison High School in New Jersey. He was a "pretty normal guy", quiet but funny, according to Chris Konya, one of the classmates.

Rahami worked in a fried chicken restaurant. Court records indicate Rahami was from a large family and may have as many as seven siblings.

FBI and other law enforcement descended on an Elmora Avenue home in Elizabeth early Monday morning where Rahami either currently lives or used to live, after five suspicious devices were found near a train station

The FBI had earlier released a wanted poster for the 28-year-old Rahami, who was said to be operating a 2003 Blue Honda Civic bearing NJ registration D63EYB. He may be related to five people who were taken into custody for questioning by the FBI in connection with Saturday night's bombing in Chelsea. FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney, Jr., said Monday that none of those people were placed under arrest.

Rahami was not on the radar of any authorities who monitor of terrorism threats. He made several trips back to Afghanistan, and a year-long trip to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates in 2013 and 2014. Friends said he changed when he returned from those trips.

A U.S. official told ABC News that Rahami's mother, Najiba Rahami, left the United States three weeks ago for Turkey and has yet to return.


Officials said Rahami's fingerprints were found on one of the pressure cooker bombs found Saturday night and a flip phone registered in his name was attached to the device.

"We have directly Rahami to devices in New York and from Saturday in New Jersey," said Assistant FBI Director William Sweeny, Jr.

But how does a worker at the family fried chicken restaurant learn to make a bomb? One edition of Inspire Magazine, the regular Al Qaeda publication, had a featured called "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom" that walks jihadis through step-by-step pressure cooker transformation.

Rahami also had a backpack bomb that went off overnight as authorities were trying to disarm it.

More than 10 years ago, these terror devices - particularly pressure cooker bombs - had the attention of federal agents. In a 2004 Department of Homeland Security memo, officials warned of the "potential terrorist use of pressure cookers" and stated that Al Qaeda trainers were teaching would-be attackers how to convert the kitchen devices into deadly bombs, where to place the TNT and how to use blasting caps to trigger the improvised explosive device.

Pressure cooker bomb attacks around the world have killed dozens of people since 2006.

Authorities say all three of the bombs in Chelsea and Seaside Park had flip phones, even though there are some differences in design. The Seaside explosive device involved pipe bombs tied together, and sources say it was timed to detonate when the race began.

But the two bombs in Chelsea on 23rd and 27th streets have some of the signatures seen from bomb-making designs posted online, including in Al Qaeda's Inspire magazine.

Federal agents are still trying to determine if Rahami was acting along, on behalf of ISIS or part of a jihadi cell.

"I have no indication that there is a cell operating in the area or in the city. The investigation is ongoing so as we develop more information, we continue to go, but I have no indication that there is a cell operating here," Sweeney said.

Both Chelsea bombs utilized Christmas lights for wiring, and the pressure cooker bomb found intact had a label on it for the chemical Tannerite, an explosive often used for target practice that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores. That pressure cooker bomb was described by a source as being extremely heavy, containing shrapnel.

Twenty-nine people were injured in the blast that occurred on West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. No injuries were reported in Seaside Park or Elizabeth.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)