More Details Emerge About Suspect In New York, New Jersey Bombings

Sep 20, 2016
Originally published on September 20, 2016 6:53 pm
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The father of the man suspected of planting bombs over the weekend in The New York region had called police previously about his son. One of those bombs injured 29 people in Manhattan on Saturday. Ahmad Rahami was arrested yesterday. Investigators say he's now talking, but they're still looking for a possible motive. NPR's Joel Rose has more.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The father of the suspected bomber, Mohammad Rahami, appeared briefly outside the family's restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J., today and was instantly peppered with questions from reporters waiting outside. But Rahami did not stop to talk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MOHAMMAD RAHAMI: The FBI - they know that.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Mr. Rahami, did you know your son was going to do this? Did you have any idea?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: We got to get through. We got to get through.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Did you call the FBI?

ROSE: Rahami was escorted across the street by a law enforcement officer. He got into a waiting car and pulled away, leaving those questions and more hanging in the air unanswered. The FBI says Mohammad Rahami called police in New Jersey over a domestic dispute involving his son Ahmad Rahami in 2014 but later retracted the complaint. The FBI looked into it but found no ties to terrorism.

Ahmad Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was born in Afghanistan but raised in New Jersey. His neighbors in Elizabeth say Rahami seemed like a regular kid.

DIXIE VELEZ: He liked the cars. He liked the schools, and he was a normal kid like my kids. And he would get along with everybody.

ROSE: Dixie Velez says her family often ordered food from the Rahami's restaurant where Ahmad Rahami worked. She has only good things to say about his father, but Velez says she noticed a change in Ahmad Rahami not long ago.

VELEZ: Like a month and a half - when he talks to you, he doesn't look at you straight to the eyes. He would talk to you but looking to the floor. I think that's a problem there. And I think the father did not pick up there.

ROSE: Ahmad Rahami was captured yesterday after a firefight with police. Law enforcement officials tell NPR that a note mentioning the Boston Marathon bombings and radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki was found near in an undetonated bomb on 27th Street in Manhattan over the weekend.

Since 2010, Ahmad Rahami traveled overseas several times to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He married a Pakistani woman, and New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires says Rahami called his office in 2014 asking for help getting a visa to bring his wife to the U.S.

ALBIO SIRES: My staff has said he was a little nasty at times 'cause at one time he wanted us to send a letter that he wrote and asked to forward it to the embassy. And I told him - my staff told him we don't do that.

ROSE: It's not clear where Rahami's wife is today. Even Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage sounds a little frustrated with how little information he is getting from federal law enforcement officials.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS BOLLWAGE: There's a lot of people who want information, including the mayor. I recognize that you have to prosecute crimes, and I understand that job. But we need to give our citizens a sense of security.

ROSE: But Bollwage and the rest of us may have to wait a little longer. Joel Rose, NPR News, Elizabeth, N.J. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.