Sunday 4 December 2016

Bomb suspect's dad told FBI he 'was terrorist'

Worried family of New York man warned bureau two years ago

David Lawler New York

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

A wounded Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after the shootout with police. Photo: AP
A wounded Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after the shootout with police. Photo: AP

The father of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man suspected of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey, contacted the FBI two years ago claiming his son was a terrorist.

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But the agency determined that he was "clean" and did not place him on a watch list.

Bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami in his booking photo. Photo: Reuters
Bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami in his booking photo. Photo: Reuters

Mohammad Rahami said yesterday he had called the agency twice after violent attacks by his son on members of his family.

"Two years ago, I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, OK?" he said, speaking to reporters outside the fried chicken restaurant he owns in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

"But they check almost two months, they say, 'He's OK, he's clean, he's not a terrorist.' I say OK. Now they say he is a terrorist. I say OK."

When asked about the FBI investigation last night, Mr Rahami said: "They didn't do their job."

Ahmad Rahami was arrested for aggravated assault in 2014 for allegedly stabbing his brother, but a grand jury declined to indict him. He had also hit his stepmother, his father said. Mr Rahami Snr said those attacks led him to call the FBI. During their conversations, he referred to his son as a terrorist, law enforcement sources told US media.

The FBI opened an investigation but found no evidence that his son had been radicalised, the sources said. It is unclear whether the younger Rahami was interviewed at the time.

The agency is now focusing on Ahmad Rahami's trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan as it attempts to determine the motive behind the bombings, and whether he received training in bomb-making abroad.

He spent nearly a year in Pakistan from April 2013 to March 2014, during which time he married a Pakistani woman, it emerged yesterday.

His wife, Asia Bibi Rahami, reportedly left the US days before the attack, and the authorities have contacted their counterparts in the UAE and Pakistan to try to speak to her.

Albio Sires, a congressman for New Jersey, said Rahami had emailed his office in April 2014 to find out why his new wife's visa to enter the US had not yet been issued.

The delay was caused by her passport having expired; when it was reissued and a visa granted, the US authorities discovered that she was 35 weeks pregnant. They told her she had to wait until the baby was born and obtain travel documents for the child.

Abrupt

It was not clear last night what became of the baby.

Mr Sires said he had never met Rahami, but that the suspect had once come into his office. His staff described him as "abrupt".

Rahami's mother also reportedly left the US before the attack, travelling to Turkey three weeks ago.

Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth, said he was never told about Mohammad Rahami's calls to the FBI, and learnt about it through the media.

"If it's true that the father called the FBI, then they first need to inform us," he said.

"I appreciate they need to keep things secure - to prosecute cases and catch people. But information-sharing is paramount to success."

Mr Bollwage said he was in a meeting with New Jersey's senators and Mr Sires hours after Rahami was captured - and the FBI agent running the investigation failed to inform them.

"I can tell you as mayor, I would like to know a lot more," he said.

The strongest clues as to what motivated the attack were found in a note near an unexploded bomb and a small notebook Rahami had on him when he was captured.

They included rants in which Rahami reportedly mentioned al-Qai'da, the perpetrators of the 2013 Boston bombing and Anwar al-Awlaki, the late radical Islamic cleric.

Rahami was charged yesterday over the shoot-out with police which led to his arrest.

He is accused of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, prosecutors said. Bail was set at $5.2m (€4.6m).

The gun battle began on Monday after a police officer responding to a call about a hooded vagrant asleep in a bar doorway roused him - and quickly recognised the bearded face of perhaps the most wanted man in America.

Rahami (28) pulled a gun, shot the officer and triggered the confrontation in the street that ended with Rahami wounded and in custody.

A bloodied Rahami was loaded into the back of an ambulance, just 50 hours after the first blast that started it all.

Rahami underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to a leg as authorities began drawing up charges in a case that spread fear across the New York area and revived anxiety about homegrown terrorism. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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