ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Federal authorities filed several charges late Tuesday against the man suspected of planting bombs in Chelsea and at two New Jersey sites.
Among the charges filed against Ahmad Khan Rahami were use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use.
A federal criminal complaint was released late Tuesday. Among other things, it alleged that Rahami purchased bomb components through eBay between June 20 and Aug. 10, including citric acid, circuit boards, an e-match electric igniter, and lead ball bearings.
The 23rd Street bomb that left dozens injured in Chelsea Saturday night contained ball bearings – some of which were lodged in a woman who was injured, authorities said. Ball bearings were also found in the 27th Street bomb that did not detonate, authorities said.
Federal authorities also alleged that a video on a cellphone belonging to one of Rahami’s family members showed him igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container two days before the explosions.
The video depicted “the lighting of the fuse, loud noise and flames, followed by billowing smoke and laughter,” the complaint said.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the timing for the federal charges came as a bit of a surprise.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicated there was no rush, because Rahami faced local charges of trying to kill the Linden, New Jersey, police officers who took him into custody.
“We’re going to take a lot of care and a lot of time,” Bharara said Monday.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the investigation into the background of Ahmad Khan Rahami winds from the Tri-State area back to Afghanistan. It turns out that his own father called the FBI about him, and the agency admitted he was on their radar two years ago.
Ahmad Khan Rahami’s father, Mohammad Rahami, suddenly emerged from his family’s fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Tuesday morning, with a law enforcement officer by his side.
Mohammad Rahami looked dazed and fatigued, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported. Dodging a swarm of cameras, he walked to a waiting SUV with an FBI agent.
When asked if he thought his son was terrorist, he replied, “No, because the FBI, they know that.” He then got into the vehicle and left.
A law enforcement official told CBS News that police responded to the family home in 2014 after the younger Rahami was said to have stabbed one of his siblings.
When police arrived, a neighbor told them that they heard Rahami’s father yell to his son that he was a “terrorist.”
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, it was following the stabbing that Mohammad Rahami also expressed concern to the FBI that his son was a terrorist.
Rahami later said that was out of anger.
“He stabbed my son, he hit my wife, and I put him to jail,” he said.
Rahami was arrested for the stabbing and police called the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The FBI and state police responded and they interviewed the neighbor. In an interview, the father said he had yelled “terrorist” in a moment of anger and the FBI began an “assessment,” CBS News reported.
During that investigation, Mohammad Rahami recanted his comment and said he meant that his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, including gangs.
Nothing was found to back up assertions that the younger Rahami was a “terrorist” and the stabbing charges were never filed.
But briefly speaking to reporters gathered outside his Elizabeth home Tuesday, the father said: “I called the FBI two years ago. I told them you got a connection with this guy.”
The FBI released a statement regarding the 2014 incident on Tuesday.
“In August 2014, the FBI initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute that were subsequently reported to authorities. The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism.”
Critics said the FBI closes cases in such a fashion too often, including with Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist Omar Mateen.
“When the Orlando killer was investigated, they closed the investigation prematurely, saying, ‘We did not deem him to be a credible threat,’” said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).
Officials said the 2014 incident happened shortly after Rahami returned from one of at least three trips to his native Afghanistan. Former Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend said investigators are now tracing his steps there.
“Who did he meet with? Where did he go? Is this the trip where he was radicalized?” Townsend said. “Because of course, investigators tell us that talking to people here, when he came back from the trip, he grew a beard. He seemed to be more anti-American — those sorts of clues.”
Law enforcement sources told CBS News Rahami also traveled to Pakistan during one of his trips to Afghanistan. Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., told CBS News Rahami contacted his office from Pakistan in 2014 in hopes to get his pregnant wife a visa.
“One story is that he had a wife in Pakistan, he was very upset that he couldn’t bring his wife back,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Rahami, 28, is being held on $5.2 million bail. A naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, he was captured and charged Monday with five counts of attempted murder after getting into a gunfight with Linden, New Jersey, police officers.
Investigators have also discovered writings by Rahami, including a handwritten note and a small notebook that was found on him and had a bullet hole in it, law enforcement sources told CBS News.
Both contained written rants suggesting he was a consumer of different radical ideologies similar to several terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and and Boko Haram, CBS News reported.
The journal allegedly expressed disappointment that he might be caught before being able to carry out a suicide attack, according to the federal complaint.
The notebook said, “I pray to the beautiful, wise Allah, do not take jihad away from me,” prosecutors said.
According to three U.S. law enforcement officials, Rahami’s writings also contain references to Osama Bin Laden and American-born jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to CBS News.
They say some of the writings also included talk about Americans killing Muslims, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
Rahami also once worked as an unarmed security guard at an Associated Press facility in Cranbury, New Jersey, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported. He reportedly told colleagues there in 2011 that he sympathized with the Taliban.
As part of the probe, investigators will pore through the troves of evidence collected, speak with relatives, friends and Rahami’s neighbors in Elizabeth, who frequented the family restaurant.
“I would never suspect nothing like this, I’m terrified,” Elizabeth resident Ryan McCann told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “He’s hiding in plain sight. You would have never known.”
With Rahami’s arrest, officials said they had no other suspects at large, but cautioned that they were still investigating.
“As we move forward with this investigation, my job is it keep the people in this city safe, so it is important that we find out what his motivation was and if he had any connections,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told “CBS This Morning.”
William Sweeney Jr., the FBI’s assistant director in New York, said there was no indication so far that the bombings were the work of a larger terror cell.
“I do not have information yet to show what the path of radicalization was,” Sweeney said.
But authorities are talking to anyone who was close to Rahami, including the mother of his 9-year-old daughter who lives in Edison, New Jersey. Neighbors said they were stunned to see the mass of law enforcement.
“I saw the FBI and the ATF people,” said neighbor Edward Rogalski. “And then the next thing, I looked out the window and saw the bomb trucks and said, ‘What the hell is going on down here?’”
Counterterrorism expert Joseph Ryan said it is not surprising that Rahami was able to fly under the radar.
“We don’t have seamless intelligence yet where all the agencies are sharing the information, and there’s no one little computer that we can push that button and here comes that person’s name up saying, ‘High priority, let’s, you know, do something; let’s stop him,’ et cetera,” Ryan said.
The investigation began when a device blew up Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity race to benefit Marines. No one was injured.
Then, the shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bomb exploded Saturday night on 23rd Street in Chelsea, wounding 29 people, none seriously. The unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found blocks away.
The federal complaint said the Chelsea bomb that blew up was so powerful that bomb parts were found 650 feet from the detonation site.
Then late Sunday night, five explosive devices were discovered in a trash can at an Elizabeth train station. Investigators are still gathering evidence and have not publicly tied Rahami to those devices, though Sweeney noted they aren’t “ruling anything out.”
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said the break in the case came Monday morning, when a bar owner reported someone asleep in his doorway.
Officers arrived and confronted Rahami, who pulled a gun and fired, authorities said. Officer Angel Padilla was hit in the torso but was saved by his bulletproof vest. More officers joined in a battle that spilled into the street.
Another police officer, Peter Hammer, was grazed by a bullet. The officers’ injuries weren’t life-threatening.
The gun battle in the street ended with Rahami shot in the leg and in custody.
“A lot of technology involved in this, but a lot of good, old-fashioned police work, too,” said O’Neill.
Police also want to speak with two men who were seen removing the unexploded pressure cooker bomb from Rahami’s bag and then placing it on the sidewalk, near the site of the Chelsea blast. In doing so, police said they may have inadvertently disabled it.
“We’re considering them witnesses right now. Once they picked up the bag, they seemed incredulous they had actually picked this up off the street, and they walked off with it,” said Robert Boyce, NYPD chief of detectives.
Rahami remains hospitalized after surgery for the gunshot wound to his leg. Investigators have tried speaking with Rahami, but he turned them away.
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