Thursday 24 May 2018

Lone wolf who bombed New York captured after shootout

Ahmad Khan Rahami lies wounded on the ground surrounded by police after the shooting in Linden, New Jersey. Photo: AP
Ahmad Khan Rahami lies wounded on the ground surrounded by police after the shooting in Linden, New Jersey. Photo: AP

Harriet Alexander

US authorities were investigating last night whether the New York bomb attacks were an Islamist terror plot as it emerged the alleged perpetrator had travelled to Afghanistan several times and showed signs of having been radicalised.

Ahmad Rahami (28), was captured yesterday in a gunfight with police in the city of Linden, New Jersey, after an intense manhunt.

Two officers were shot and wounded when they responded to a tip from the owner of a bar that a man resembling Rahami - whose photo was widely circulated on television news channels - was hiding in the doorway.

Rahami was carried by stretcher into an ambulance, taken conscious to hospital and was undergoing surgery last night for what appeared to be a shoulder wound.

He is thought to be the sole attacker behind three attempted bombings on Saturday.

One, in Manhattan, exploded and injured 29 people. The New Jersey blast came close to a 5km charity run but caused no injuries. The third, also in Manhattan, failed to detonate.

The suspect is tended to by medics as he’s taken into custody on a stretcher. Photo: AP
The suspect is tended to by medics as he’s taken into custody on a stretcher. Photo: AP

Late on Sunday night five more homemade devices were found at Elizabeth station in New Jersey.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, said he believed that Rahami was acting alone.

Preet Bharara, US attorney for the southern district of Manhattan, said there was "no indication that there's a cell operating in the area or in the city".

Rahami was born in Afghanistan and moved to the US with his family. His older brother Qasim is believed to have returned to Afghanistan after he was involved in a fight with police in New Jersey, while one of his sisters, Zobydha, is a student at Rutgers University, and promotes community relations among minority students.

In 2011, he and his father attempted to sue the city of Linden for discrimination after numerous court cases involving allegations of noise disturbance at the family takeaway.

Three years later, he was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon and aggravated assault, but was not charged.

Donald Trump seized on the fact that the suspect was an Afghan immigrant to boost support for his controversial proposal to bar Muslims from entering the US. He insisted he had "predicted" the attacks and that the country, under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, had become "weak".

Mrs Clinton, in turn, accused him of helping Isil recruiters with his rhetoric against Islam, while Mr Obama said America's values and way of life must be upheld. "As Americans, we will not give in to fear," he said.

Associates said last night that, several years ago, Rahami travelled to his homeland and on his return he appeared to have been radicalised.

He is thought to have made several trips to the country and to neighbouring nations.

Five of his relatives or associates were stopped for questioning as they drove across the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. They have not been charged, while police try to establish whether Rahami was part of a terror network or operating as a lone wolf.

Suspicion remains he had outside assistance or training in order to assemble the eight bombs. Reports suggested the devices were packed with a chemical similar to Tannerite, used in shooting targets.

Police were investigating the suggestion that the bombs contained HMTD, or hexamethylene triperoxide diamine - a high explosive that is relatively easy for terrorists to "home brew" from instructions found on the internet.

HMTD is similar to triacetone triperoxide (TATP), used in the London Tube bombings, the "Shoe Bomber" attempt to blow up an airliner and the train station and airport bombings in Brussels earlier this year.

Bill Sweeney, an FBI special agent, said investigators were working on the suspect's connections and movements. "I do not have information yet to show what the path of radicalisation was," he said. He added the fact Rahami was captured alive was "excellent, both from an investigative standpoint - and that we saved a life". Rahami was identified after police found his fingerprints on another pressure-cooker bomb that failed to detonate.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, said that "information suggests it may be foreign-related, but we'll see where it goes." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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