Ahmad Rahami: From New Jersey fried chicken restaurant to Chelsea attack

An image of Ahmad Khan Rahami, who is wanted for questioning in connection with an explosion in New York City, is seen in a a poster released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 19, 2016. © FBI
Police in Linden, New Jersey have arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, named as the suspect in the multiple explosions in New Jersey and New York over the weekend. Though no one was killed, police are treating the blasts as possible terrorism.

Rahami was identified in an unusual alert sent to the general public via mobile devices on Monday morning. The “Be on the lookout” (BOLO) notice described him as 5’6” tall, driving a 2003 blue Honda Civic with New Jersey license plates. It also identified him as a naturalized US citizen, born in Afghanistan in 1988.

Authorities have “directly linked” Rahami to the Saturday evening blast in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, as well as a Saturday morning explosion at Seaside Park, New Jersey, minutes before the start of a Marine Corps charity race.

READ MORE: Pipe bomb detonates along route of 5km US Marines charity race in New Jersey

He was also linked to the Sunday evening blast at the Elizabeth, NJ train station. The FBI declined to disclose the nature of the connection, citing an ongoing investigation.

Following the Chelsea blast, an unexploded pressure cooker was found several blocks away. It had been left behind in a rolling suitcase, which was picked up by two “well-dressed young men,” local media reported. They opened the bag and threw out the pressure cooker bomb, which investigators believe “inadvertently” disabled it. A cell phone detonator attached to the bomb led the authorities to Rahami’s family.

By cross-referencing social media pictures, police found surveillance footage showing Rahami at the scene of the Chelsea bombing. That device had been placed inside a metal garbage container, so the force of the blast was channeled upward. There were no fatalities, though 29 people were injured.  

Prior to announcing Rahami’s identity to the public, the authorities had been hunting for him for 12 hours, according to NBC’s Pete Williams.

Before this weekend, Rahami was not on any terror watch lists or terrorism databases, Reuters reported. He studied criminal justice at Middlesex Community College in New Jersey between 2010 and 2012, but never graduated, the school told NBC. After that, he apparently began working full-time at First American Fried Chicken, a restaurant in Elizabeth owned by his father, Muhammad.

At the time, the restaurant’s late hours were causing trouble with the authorities, and the city had ordered it to close no later than 10 p.m. every day, due to noise complaints by the neighbors. One of Rahami’s brothers got into a fight with the police after refusing to comply with the order, and left for Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

In 2011, the family sued the city, local police and a neighbor, alleging harassment and religious discrimination. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2012.

“It was neighbor complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,” Elizabeth Mayor Christ Bollwage told the Times.

Five of Rahami’s family members were detained Sunday night and taken to the FBI headquarters in Manhattan for questioning. None of them were arrested. The family was pulled over near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, leading to speculation that they were headed for the JFK International Airport.

Meanwhile, two men rummaging through the garbage outside the Elizabeth, NJ train station found a bag with explosives and alerted the police. The bag contained several pipe bombs, and exploded while the bomb robot was trying to defuse the devices.

READ MORE: ‘That was real!’ Suspected pipe bomb explodes at NJ train station (VIDEOS) 

After the descriptions of Rahami and his car were made public, someone called to report seeing the vehicle on the grounds of the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, on Monday morning. After a brief lockdown, New York State Police established that the car was not Rahami’s.

Less than an hour later, there was a report from Linden, New Jersey of two officers injured in a firefight with a suspect who turned out to be Rahami. He was reportedly found sleeping in the doorway of a bar by the owner, who alerted the police.

When police showed up, Rahami opened fire and tried to flee. One officer was injured, while another was saved by his body armor. Rahami was arrested and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.