US charges Afghan-born suspect with NY, NJ attacks


New York (AFP)

The United States charged an Afghan-born US suspect with multiple terror counts in connection with bomb attacks in New York and New Jersey and other planted devices.

US prosecutors said Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, carried out Saturday's bombings in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood and along the route of a US Marine Corps run in New Jersey, which aborted the race.

The 13-page indictment slapped him with four charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use and destruction of property by means of fire or explosives.

A total of 31 people were wounded in the Chelsea attack, including a victim from Britain, a driver knocked unconscious and a woman who had ball bearings, metal and wood removed from her body, it said.

The bomb was a pressure cooker device, packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, placed in a dumpster and detonated by a timed device -- similar to a second bomb discovered four blocks away.

The indictment said five pipe bombs found in Rahami's hometown of Elizabeth and from the second device safely defused in Chelsea, were covered in the suspect's fingerprints.

Surveillance footage also put him in Chelsea, and Rahami bought the ingredients for the bombs from eBay over the summer, prosecutors said.

A social media account under the name yaafghankid786, favorited two jihadi videos and he kept a handwritten journal that lauded Osama bin Laden and criticized US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, it said.

A video recovered from the cell phone of a relative also showed Rahami igniting an incendiary device two days before the bombings in or near his home in Elizabeth, the indictment alleged.

- Stabbed brother -

Rahami was shot and captured on Monday 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 also been charged in New Jersey with unlawful weapon possession and five counts of attempted murder of a police official.

The terror charges come after the FBI admitted that they investigated Rahami for terrorism in 2014 following a complaint from his father, but found no link despite alleged acts of violence.

Mohammad Rahami, an immigrant from Afghanistan who brought his children to the United States, said he warned the FBI that his son was a danger and a terrorist in 2014.

"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.

"The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism," the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

Rahami, who was operated on after sustaining multiple bullet wounds, is in "critical but stable" condition, police said.

It still remains unclear how and why exactly Rahami allegedly become radicalized, and whether he definitively acted alone.

- Email from Pakistan -

Officials say Rahami traveled extensively 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 the Islamic State group.

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.