A man suspected of being involved in the weekend bombings which injured 29 people in New York has been apprehended following a dramatic manhunt on Monday.
Afghan-born US citizen Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, had hours earlier been named on a ‘wanted’ list sent to millions of local cell phones as New York prepared to host world leaders at the United Nations general assembly.
Police and FBI officials said at a news conference they had linked Rahami to Saturday’s bombing at New York’s Chelsea neighborhood while leaving behind more devices constructed in pressure cookers packed with metallic fragmentation material. They also said that he is believed to have been involved in the pipe-bomb blast in Seaside Park, New Jersey, on Saturday as well as the planting of explosives in the town of Elizabeth on Sunday.
By the time they caught him in the evening, Rahami had been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, and second-degree unlawful possession for unlawful purposes.
Mayor Derek Armstead of Linden, New Jersey, said on Monday morning that a businessman found and reported Rahami asleep in the doorway of his bar. When police arrived, Rahami was said to have pulled out a gun and shot an officer who was fortunate to have been wearing a bullet-proof vest. A gun battle then ensued between the suspect and law enforcement, eventually ending in the former’s capture.
Officials said another officer was grazed by a bullet, though both wounded agents were recover. Rahami, on the other hand, was shot in the leg and underwent surgery, FBI agent Bill Sweeney said. Though he declined to comment about possible links to other people or groups, he said: “I have no indication that there’s a cell operating in the area or in the city” and that “the investigation is ongoing”.
The discovery of five other suspicious devices on Monday morning near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, sparked fears of an active terror cell. The devices are said to be linked to the pipe-bomb blast that exploded on Saturday.
27-year-old Flee Jones, who said he had known Rahami since they were teenagers, said he noticed a shift in the suspect’s personality after a trip to Afghanistan in 2014. Jones mentions that Rahami “got more religious” and dressed differently when he returned.
“He was more quiet and more mature”, Jones said. “I said, ‘Oh, where have you been?’ And he said, ‘Oh, vacation.’ But I knew he went to Afghanistan because his little brother said it”.
Democratic New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires said Rahami had contacted his office in 2014 to ask for assistance because his wife had an expired Pakistani passport. Sires said his office corresponded with the US embassy in Pakistan to check on the case and that Rahami’s wife was eventually granted a visa, though he was unsure if she entered the country. FBI agents declined to comment when asked.
In a televised address to the nation, US President Barack Obama emphasized that the three incidents were not thought to have been directly linked to a stabbing incident in Minnesota, which Islamic State claimed responsibility for – though this is also being investigated as a separate possible act of terror.