U.S. officials unsealed a criminal indictment against Afghan-born bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, charging him with planting a series of bombs in New York and New Jersey over the past three days in an act of terrorism.
Charges against Rahami included an allegation that he tried to use a "weapon of mass destruction."
The young man already had been charged with attempted murder following a shootout with police in New Jersey. He now is in a hospital recovering from gunshot wounds suffered at the time of his arrest.
The disclosure of the terrorism case against the 28-year-old man followed the FBI's admission earlier Tuesday that it looked into Rahami's activities two years ago, but found insufficient evidence to launch a full-scale investigation.
The FBI said it carried out an "assessment" of Rahami in 2014, based on a tip from his father, who told agents at the time that he was concerned about his son's possible involvement with extremists.
However, during a subsequent meeting with investigators, Mohammad Rahami revised his story, saying the source of his worries were the young man's associations with criminals and thugs. The FBI said it took a look at the younger Rahami's activities and found nothing that would warrant further investigation.
At the time of the FBI's involvement in 2014, Rahami was in jail for allegedly stabbing his brother.
Prosecutors in New Jersey initially charged the 28-year-old with five counts of attempted murder stemming from his shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, where he was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar Monday morning. Two police officers were wounded in that clash.
Rahami was born in Afghanistan, emigrated to the U.S. when he was 7 years old, and has since become a naturalized American citizen. Surveillance video has shown him in the vicinity of the spot where a bomb went off Saturday night in New York City, and also walking near the spot several hundred meters away where another, unexploded bomb was recovered hours after the original explosion.
The bomb blast wounded 29 people, most of whom suffered only slight injuries - apparently because the explosive device was placed beneath a heavy metal container that absorbed most of the force of the blast. Police and federal authorities said the second explosive device apparently failed to detonate because it was faulty. However, recovery of the intact bomb presented clues that helped police in their search for the attacker.
Police also have linked Rahami to an explosion in a garbage can Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey. The blast was relatively minor, because part of the device failed to detonate, but it forced cancellation of a charity foot race organized by members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
No one was injured.
Rahami also is believed to be the source of multiple pipe bombs found abandoned near a railway station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. That town, where the family lived and where Rahami's father operated a small restaurant, is adjacent to Linden, where the son was arrested.
Rahami is known to have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan several years ago. When he was shot, investigators said, Rahami was carrying a notebook containing "extremist ramblings," including references to Anwar al-Awliki, an American-born Muslim cleric killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Customers at the Rahami family's fried chicken restaurant described the young man as friendly, saying he liked to talk about cars, give away food, and let local bands practice in the restaurant.
But other friends wonder if his trip to Pakistan changed him. They say he grew a beard and wore Muslim clothes after he returned, became more serious, and prayed in the back of the store.
An Afghan presidential spokesman, Menapal Dawa Khan, told VOA Tuesday that even though Rahami is a U.S. citizen, the Kabul government is ready to fully cooperate in the investigation.
Source: Voice of America.