, NEW YORK, United States, Sep 20 – The FBI said Tuesday that it had investigated the New York area bomb suspect for terrorism in 2014 but found no link, despite his alleged violent acts after returning from Pakistan.
Two years later, Ahmad Khan Rahami is the chief suspect for 10 bombs planted in Manhattan and New Jersey — two of which exploded on Saturday, wounding 29 people in Chelsea and aborting a US Marine Corps race in northern New Jersey.
The FBI revelation is likely to raise troubling questions about what US authorities can do to stop attacks from being carried out by individuals with no known links to specific militant groups.
Investigators were left piecing together a picture of the 28-year-old bomb suspect who allegedly stabbed his brother in the leg and reportedly jotted down pro-Al-Qaeda writings in a notebook that was confiscated when he was captured Monday.
His father Mohammad Rahami, an immigrant from Afghanistan who brought his Afghan-born son to the United States as a child, said he warned the FBI that his son was a danger in 2014, calling him a terrorist.
“He doing bad, he stabbed my son, he hit my wife,” he told reporters.
In August 2014, Rahami was charged with aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a knife after being accused of stabbing Nasim Rahami in the leg.
He reportedly spent three months in jail but was never prosecuted.
“In August 2014, the FBI initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
“The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism,” it added.
-Awlaki jottings –
Even before the 2014 incident, Rahami was accused in February 2012 of violating a domestic violence restraining order, according to court filings in his hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
On Monday, Rahami was repeatedly shot and captured after being spotted in the doorway of a bar in Linden, New Jersey, just four hours after the FBI released his mugshot and sent an emergency cellphone alert to millions of people.
He has already been charged with unlawful weapon possession and five counts of attempted murder of a police official.
He may yet also face terror charges over Saturday night’s bombing in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, and the pipe blast in Seaside Park, New Jersey.
He has yet to be interrogated, after undergoing surgery and being treated in “critical but stable” condition, New York police chief James O’Neill said.
The notebook found on Rahami included references to US-born Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011, and the 2013 Boston bombers, CNN reported.
The FBI is now analyzing eight other unexploded bombs recovered from Manhattan and New Jersey, fingerprints and DNA, for clues as to how he may have become radicalized, and whether he acted alone.
Two other pipe bombs at the Marines race in Seaside Park failed to detonate, as did a pressure cooker device in Chelsea. One of the five pipe bombs found near the train station in Elizabeth was detonated accidentally by a bomb-detecting robot on Monday.
– Extensive travel –
Officials say Rahami traveled extensively in recent years to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he married and his wife became pregnant.
Albio Sires, a New Jersey congressman in the US House of Representatives, said Rahami had sought his help to obtain a visa for his heavily pregnant wife to travel to the United States in 2014.
“He sent an email to my office from Pakistan, and he had said to me that he had been in Pakistan since April 2013 and we received the email on March 2014,” Sires told CNN.
His wife left the United States shortly before Saturday’s attacks and was stopped in the United Arab Emirates, US media reported.
Officials say so far they have found no connection between Rahami and any militant groups, including the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).
He worked at the family’s fried-chicken restaurant, where The New York Times quoted friends as saying that he started praying and wore traditional clothes after returning from Afghanistan.
He was also father to a child with his high-school girlfriend. In court papers requesting full custody, she said she last spoke to him by telephone in January.
Another line of inquiry may be whether the family’s tussles over their business could have played a role in radicalizing Rahami.
His family sued the city of Elizabeth in 2011, accusing it and local police of discrimination because they were Muslim and Afghans, in ordering them to close their restaurant by 10:00 pm. The suit was settled in favor of the city.