Chelsea bombing: Ahmad Khan Rahami in custody, reports say
Ahmad Khan Rahami is in custody after a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, according to multiple news reports.
Rahami, the person of interest in the Chelsea bombing, is also wanted for questioning in the Jersey Shore bombing earlier that day, officials said Monday as the investigation into four separate incidents in two states ramped up.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said there “may very well be a foreign link” to the Chelsea incident and the explosive devices found near that scene and in New Jersey.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, is wanted for questioning, according to the FBI.
Rahami’s last known address is in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 200 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes and brown facial hair, the FBI said.
“I want to make very clear that this individual could be armed and dangerous,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday morning in an interview on CNN.
In a Facebook post, New Jersey State Police said the FBI wants to question Rahami in the Chelsea blast that injured 29 people and in a blast before a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, in which no one was injured.
The malfunction of a nearby unexploded bomb found after the Chelsea blast and the one in Jersey were the same, and used Christmas lights as detonators, said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who has talked with FBI and NYPD investigators.
“The main connection was the bombs themselves. The bombs were very similar. The detonators were Christmas lights,” said King, chairman of the House counterterrorism subcommittee, in an interview with Newsday. “The malfunction was exactly the same. It was the way it was constructed.”
Investigators obtained “very good recordings” from video cameras in Chelsea, especially from the one on 27th Street, King said.
While investigators have put out an alert for Rahami, King said he thinks the evidence points to a cell of several people.
King said it appears to be a fast-moving investigation, one that is looking into a possible international terrorist tie.
Yet there are many unanswered questions, he said, including whether Rahami was on the terrorist watch list, whether his tie was to Afghanistan where ISIS doesn’t have a strong presence, and whether the bombing is a decoy for an attack on the United Nations General Assembly.
The investigation into the Saturday night bombing along West 23rd Street is “proceeding rapidly,” Cuomo said on “CBS This Morning.” A pressure cooker with wiring also was discovered nearby that night and removed for analysis.
“There may very well turn out to be a link to foreign terror organizations,” Cuomo said later, at a midmorning news conference at Penn Station, adding that there is “no reason to believe” there are any other devices.
King, in an interview with Fox News, said he agrees with Cuomo’s take.
“I think he’s very accurate for saying there’s a strong possibility of a tie to international terrorism,” King said. “Today I believe we’re going to find out that [Chelsea] was targeted by a foreign body, influenced by foreign forces.”
The FBI said agents and investigators with the NYPD stopped a “vehicle of interest” Sunday night on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn in connection with the Chelsea bombing.
Sources said the five people in the vehicle were relatives and associates of Rahami and that it was not clear if they were involved in any bombings. They have not been charged, the FBI said.
Government and law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation said they were being questioned at an FBI building in lower Manhattan, The Associated Press reported.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the ongoing investigation.
The FBI on Monday morning was searching a residence in Elizabeth believed to be connected to Rahami, sources said. The FBI said anyone with information on Rahami can call its toll-free tip line at 800-225-5324.
Also, the AP reported that a suspicious device found near an Elizabeth train station Sunday night exploded as a bomb squad robot cut into it. It was unknown if the device was connected to the Chelsea bombing.
According to the AP, Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said the FBI was working to disarm one of five devices found in the same bag, which was discovered in a trash can by two men around 8:30 p.m. Sunday, near the Elizabeth train station on New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor rail line. Two men had reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package, Bollwage said.
Authorities were working to determine whether there is a connection between the devices found in Elizabeth, the Chelsea explosion, the unexploded pressure cooker device blocks away, and the pipe bomb blast on the Jersey Shore.
The pipe bomb exploded Saturday in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. The race was canceled and no one was injured.
Cuomo, in a morning interview with CNN, said that there are similarities between the New Jersey and Chelsea bombings.
“Call it what it what you want. I am not going to sugarcoat it. But these bombings were intended to intimidate,” Cuomo said. “They are offended by our freedom and democracy and we won’t allow it.”
Cuomo said the terrorists failed. “New York is up and running today and more secure than ever in our history.” The state has assigned 1,000 state troopers and the National Guard in the city.
In an interview with NY 1 News, de Blasio said “the NYPD is on a high alert and all police officers have images of Ahmad Khan Rahami” on their smartphones.
The alert also went to New Yorkers’ cellphones. “Everyone got an alert call,” the mayor said, adding that this communication technology will be a mainstay in the investigations because police need the public’s help.
De Blasio, in an interview with CNN, said New Yorkers should not assume that Rahami is connected to a foreign terrorist cell.
“It is too early to say if it is bigger,” he said. “We want to get this individual. We need the facts to define if this is a group of individuals ... We don’t know yet if this is a cell.”
The mayor emphasized vigilance.
“If you see a suspicious package, overhear a conversation of violence, report it right away,” he said.