New York

Federal Charges Filed Against Alleged NYC, NJ Bomber Ahmad Rahami: Officials

A criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court provided new chilling descriptions of the motivations that authorities said drove the Afghan-born U.S. citizen to set off explosives in New York and New Jersey

What to Know

  • Ahmad Rahami also faces charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer in connection to the Linden shootout
  • Rahami remains in the hospital, and it wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney
  • A notebook found on him when he was captured included praise for a former top al-Qaida operative and other "jihadist-style" writings

Federal prosecutors have filed charges against the 28-year-old New Jersey man suspected of planting bombs in New York City and New Jersey, including using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing public places, according to a criminal complaint unsealed at a federal court in Manhattan Tuesday.

Championing jihad, bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami vowed to martyr himself rather than be caught after setting off explosives, and he'd hoped in a handwritten journal that "the sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets," authorities said as they filed federal charges.

In the complaint, the FBI says a social media account connected to Rahami lists among favorites two jihadist videos. It also says that two days before the New York bombings, a video was recorded on a cellphone belonging to a member of his family showing him "igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container" in a backyard at or near the family's Elizabeth, New Jersey home.

According to the court complaint, Rahami's journal included a passage that said: "You (USA Government) continue your (unintelligible) slaught(er)" against the mujahideen, or holy warriors, "be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria), Palestine ... ."

Another portion expressed concern at the prospect of being caught before being able to carry out a suicide attack and the desire to be a martyr, the complaint said.

It added that another part included a reference, on a page that is largely unintelligible, to "pipe bombs" and a "pressure cooker bomb," and declared: "In the streets they plan to run a mile."

One official earlier described the notebook to NBC News as a "a hodge podge, a rambling, disconnected, choppy series of references to past events." 

There were also laudatory references to Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki - the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired other acts of violence - and Nidal Hasan, the former Army officer who went on a deadly shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, the complaint said.

Rahami was captured Monday in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police that left two local officers wounded. He's separately facing five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer in connection with the shootout, the Union County prosecutor said Monday. Rahami, who was shot 10 times, remains hospitalized after undergoing surgery.

It wasn't clear if he had retained an attorney, nor was it known when he would be arraigned on the charges.  

Federal agents have attempted to question Rahami in the hospital, The Associated Press reports. But Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who received a classified briefing from the FBI, said Rahami was not cooperating.

Rahami allegedly built four explosive devices, federal investigators said Tuesday. They allege he planted two pressure cooker bombs in New York City: The one on 23rd Street that exploded, injuring more than 30 people and spraying debris and glass into the street, and the one on 27th Street that didn't.

Rahami also allegedly put a device made of three pipe bombs in a trash bin along a Marine 5k race route in Seaside Park. Authorities had said they believed the device was timed to go off as participants ran by the bin, but the race was running late. It was canceled, and no one was hurt. 

Federal investigators say Rahami also allegedly built a multi-part device that was found at a commuter rail station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, late Sunday prompting a series of transit disruptions. A robot trying to disarm the device inadvertently detonated one of the bombs, but no one was injured. 

Officials have said there is no indication Rahami was connected to any local or foreign terror cell, and they believe he acted alone. No other suspects are being sought in relation to the bombings, officials have said. 

In an exclusive interview with NBC 4 Tuesday, the head of FBI's Newark office said law enforcement investigated Rahami in 2014 and found no evidence to suggest a tie to terrorism. 

Authorities also said that Rahami was not on any federal terror watchlist or on the NYPD's radar prior to Saturday's attack. The devices were made with commonly available materials that can be bought without raising law-enforcement suspicions, authorities say. The same kind of cellphone was used as a trigger on at least three of the devices, and the phones were all bought at the same New Jersey discount store. Fingerprints led to Rahami, officials said.

The court complaint describes Rahami buying bomb-making equipment so openly that he ordered citric acid, ball bearings and electronic igniters on eBay and had them delivered to a Perth Amboy, New Jersey business where he worked until earlier this month.

San Jose, California-based eBay Inc. noted that the products are legal and widely available and said the company had worked with law enforcement on the investigation.

Using pressure cookers to house bombs was popularized years ago by Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by an al-Qaeda affiliate and used by the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013. They too were followers of al-Awlaki, the American-born al-Qaeda-linked cleric killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.

But while pressure cookers are advocated by terrorist organizations, their use does not necessarily suggest that someone received specialized training or was under the control of a foreign group. 

Rahami worked as an unarmed night guard for two months in 2011 at an Associated Press administrative technology office in Cranbury, New Jersey, the wire service reports. At the time, he was employed by Summit Security, a private contractor. 

AP global security chief Danny Spriggs said he learned this week that Rahami worked night shifts at the AP building and often engaged colleagues in long political discussions, expressing sympathy for the Taliban and disdain for U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Rahami left that job in 2011 because he wanted to take a trip to Afghanistan, Spriggs said.

Summit's vice president of security services, Daniel Sepulveda, said Rahami last did work for the company in 2011 and left the job because he wanted an extended leave that didn't coincide with his work schedule.

Sepulveda wouldn't discuss where else Rahami had security assignments but said he was unaware of any complaints about his conduct. He said he had all licenses required by New Jersey law.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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