Officials told Mohammed Rahami the FBI looked into the matter and the father later retracted his comment, made after his son was arrested in stabbing incident
The father of the man suspected in bombings in New York City and New Jersey contacted the FBI following a 2014 stabbing to express concerns that his son was a terrorist, he told reporters on Tuesday.
“Two years ago I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, OK?” Mohammed Rahami told the New York Times. “But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s OK, he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist.’ I say OK.”
He added: “Now they say he is a terrorist. I say OK.”
A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that the FBI looked into the matter, but that Mohammed Rahami later retracted his comment and said he meant that his son, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was hanging out with the wrong crowd, including gangs.
The FBI reviewed its databases and found no credible connection to terrorism or threat to the US from the son, the official said.
Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested for stabbing a person in the leg and possession of a firearm in 2014. But a grand jury declined to indict him, despite a warning from the arresting officer that Rahami was likely “a danger to himself or others”.
The official who spoke to AP insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Rahami allegedly planted two pressure-cooker bombs in Chelsea, Manhattan, on Saturday – one of which exploded, injuring 29 – and a pipe bomb 60 miles away in Seaside Park, New Jersey, which forced the abandonment of a charity run for marines and sailors. A backpack of bombs was also found abandoned near Elizabeth train station on Sunday night, although investigators have not publicly tied Rahami to these devices.
So far Rahami has not been charged with terrorism offences, rather with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer and two second-degree weapons charges, all of which result from his arrest in Linden, New Jersey, on Monday. More charges were expected to be brought against him in federal court, and on Tuesday the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, said the explosions were being investigated “as an act of terror”. He is being held on $5.2m bail and remains in the hospital in critical but stable condition, after surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg. Police have not yet been able to interview him in depth, New York police commissioner James O’Neill said on Tuesday.
Rahami had been arrested in 2014 on weapons and aggravated assault charges for allegedly stabbing a relative in the leg, the NYT reported citing court documents, and spent over three months in jail before being released without indictment. He also spent a day in jail in 2012 for allegedly violating a restraining order, the paper reported. He was not on any terror or no-fly watch lists, though he had been interviewed for immigration purposes traveling between the US and Afghanistan, an anonymous law enforcement official told the AP.
William Sweeney, the FBI’s assistant director in New York, said on Monday that the FBI had got a report of a domestic incident involving Rahami some time ago, but the allegations had been recanted, and “there’s nothing to indicate that currently he was on our radar”.
An anonymous law enforcement official told the New York Times that the construction of the bombs – which in the Manhattan and Seaside Park cases used old-fashioned flip phones, the paper reported – may mean Rahami received training from someone with bomb-making experience.
“If you’re working off the premise that the guy made all these devices,” the official said, “then the guy is a pretty good bombmaker. And you don’t get that good on the internet.”
Officials have said they have no other suspects at large, but cautioned they are still investigating. “It’s a good sign that we found him in a doorway,” O’Neill told CBS on Tuesday. “Hopefully that means he had nowhere to go.”
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told ABC News that there was no link between Rahami and his group.
Rahami was spotted on surveillance video in Chelsea on Saturday evening carrying a backpack and two other bags, the New York Times reported, with later footage showing him without the backpack and leaving one of the other bags by a mailbox.
His fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene of the Manhattan bombing, the AP reported, citing anonymous law enforcement officials. His uncovered face was clearly captured by surveillance cameras near the spot of the blast. Electronic toll records show a car to which he had access was driven from New Jersey to Manhattan and back to New Jersey the day of the bombing, according to the officials. Authorities pulled it over Sunday night while it was headed in the direction of Kennedy airport. The law enforcement officials said at least one of Rahami’s relatives was in the car. All five were questioned and released.
Conflicting information filtered out from friends and officials about visits by Rahami to Afghanistan or Pakistan. Police are looking into whether he was radicalized while abroad, Reuters reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report