Father told police New York bomb suspect was terrorist

Ahmad Khan Rahami’s father later recanted claim when questioned in 2014

Mohammad Rahami, father of Ahmad Khan Rahami, is escorted by law enforcement past reporters to his car, in front of his home on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Photograph: Bryan Anselm/The New York Times

Mohammad Rahami, father of Ahmad Khan Rahami, is escorted by law enforcement past reporters to his car, in front of his home on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Photograph: Bryan Anselm/The New York Times

 

America’s difficulties in stopping lone-wolf terrorists before they strike were underscored on Tuesday as reports said that the father of the suspect in last weekend’s bombings in New York and New Jersey had once told authorities his son was a terrorist.

Federal investigators subsequently met the father of Ahmad Khan Rahami, in 2014, only to hear him recant his claim, the reports said. An official interviewed by the New York Times said it appeared at the time that the father had spoken in anger.

The younger Mr Rahami (28), a US citizen born in Afghanistan, was captured on Monday after he was shot in a gun battle with police in New Jersey. He was being held on charges including use of weapons of mass destruction and bombing a public place. Bail was set at $5.2 million (€4.65 million).

Mr Rahami had a record of arrests involving violence. Acquaintances said he changed in recent years after visiting Pakistan, where he also was believed to have been married.

The new information about the contact between police and Mr Rahami’s father emerged as local officials were hailing the quick police work that led to his capture less than 48 hours after bombings that rattled the New York-New Jersey area and put the issue of terrorism back at the forefront of the US presidential campaign.

Law enforcement

Andrew Cuomo

Mr Rahami was suspected in a spree that began with an explosion in the New Jersey shore community of Seaside Park on Saturday morning. A second bomb exploded in the downtown Manhattan neighbourhood of Chelsea on Saturday night, injuring 29 people.

The first big break in the case came when police discovered an unexploded bomb in Chelsea on which they found Mr Rahami’s fingerprint and a telephone – meant to serve as a triggering device – belonging to a family member, according to reports.

On Sunday, two homeless men found additional explosive devices outside a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, just outside New York City where the Rahami family operates a restaurant, First American Fried Chicken.

By Monday morning, authorities felt confident enough to issue an unprecedented mobile-phone warning to millions of people that said Mr Rahami was wanted in the case.

Only hours later, police in Linden, New Jersey, the next town over from Elizabeth, found Mr Rahami sleeping in the doorway of a bar. Mr Rahami opened fire on officers who approached him, hitting one in his bulletproof vest. Another officer was injured, apparently by flying glass, before police shot Mr Rahami and took him into custody.

Even before Mr Rahami was apprehended, the case stirred the political debate in the US, with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump charging that “political correctness” was preventing local police from “profiling” potential terrorists.

After Mr Rahami’s capture, Mr Trump said he was being given “amazing hospitalisation” and would be assigned “an outstanding lawyer”.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, said Mr Trump was giving “aid and comfort” to Islamic State with his comments.

“We’re going after the bad guys, and we’re going to get them, but we’re not going after an entire religion,” Mrs Clinton said. “We know that Donald Trump’s comments have been used online for the recruitment of terrorists.”

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016