The United States Tuesday charged an Afghan-born American restaurant worker, who was critically wounded in a police shootout, with detonating and planting bombs in New York and New Jersey.
U.S. prosecutors said Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, carried out twin bombings Saturday in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and along the route of a U.S. Marine Corps run in the New Jersey town of Seaside Park.
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.
He was captured Monday while carrying a handwritten journal that lauded Osama bin Laden and U.S.-born Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, and criticized U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, it said.
He will be transported to Manhattan to face the charges, said federal prosecutors in New York. If convicted, he risks spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Prosecutors said 31 people were wounded in the Chelsea attack, including a victim from Britain, a driver knocked unconscious and a woman whose body was pierced with ball bearings, metal and wood.
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 pressure cooker bomb discovered four blocks away.
Five pipe bombs found in Rahami’s hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey and the second device safely defused in Chelsea, were covered in the suspect’s fingerprints, the indictment alleged.
Surveillance footage also put him in Chelsea, and Rahami bought the ingredients for the bombs from eBay over the summer, prosecutors said.
Video on relative’s phone
A video recovered from a relative’s cell phone also allegedly showed Rahami igniting an incendiary device just two days before the bombings in or near his home in Elizabeth, the indictment alleged.
Rahami was shot and captured 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 been charged separately with unlawful weapon possession and five counts of attempted murder of a police official.
Rahami, who was operated on after sustaining multiple bullet wounds, is in “critical but stable” condition, police said.
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 Tuesday, explaining why he had alerted agents two years ago.
In August 2014, Rahami was accused of stabbing Nasim Rahami in the leg, and charged with aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a knife.
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.
Year in Pakistan
It still remains unclear how and why exactly Rahami allegedly become radicalized, and whether he definitively acted alone.
Officials say so far they have found no connection between Rahami and any militant groups, raising the possibility that the weekend bomb attacks could be another lone-wolf-style operation.
Officials say Rahami traveled extensively to Afghanistan and spent around a year Pakistan, where he married and his wife became pregnant.
Albio Sires, a New Jersey congressman in the U.S. 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.
She left the United States shortly before Saturday’s attacks and was stopped in the United Arab Emirates, U.S. media reported.
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.
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.