An Afghan-descent man, who was the target of a massive manhunt for alleged links to the New York and New Jersey bombings, was arrested on Monday after a shootout.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect, was described as a 28-year-old naturalized American from Afghanistan, whose last known address was in Elizabeth, a city in New Jersey close to where he was arrested, according to officials.
A resident tipped the law enforcement after finding Rahami sleeping in a car outside a bar in Linden, not far from Elizabeth where his family lived. The suspect, who was carrying an automatic handgun, and two law enforcement officers were wounded in the exchange of fire.
Rahami was seen in the surveillance footage from the site of the Saturday night explosion that wounded 29 people at a crowded neighbourhood in Chelsea, Manhattan, and from near an unexploded device found the same night a short distance away, according to media reports citing officials.
Rahami was also linked to the Saturday morning explosion caused by a pipe bomb in a garbage can on the route of a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey. No one was injured or killed. More pipe bombs were found in a bag at a train station in Elizabeth overnight.
After ruling out terrorism earlier, New York mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday investigators were “leaning more in the direction that this was a specific act of terror”. And New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a TV interview, “I would not be surprised if we did have a foreign connection to the act.”
A stabbing spree in a Minnesota mall on Saturday that left nine people injured was also being treated as terrorism, authorities have said.
The assailant, Dahir Adan, a 22-year-old man of Somali-descent, was shot dead by an off-duty officer. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement and called Adana a “soldier” of the outfit.
No one had owned up for the New York and New Jersey bombings till Monday. And investigators had not said if they had found any evidence to link suspect Rahami to any outfit.
Rahami’s family runs a restaurant, First American Fried Chicken. People who knew Rahami said, according to local news reports, said he was a friendly man, who occasionally gave away food for free to regulars. He liked cars.
The restaurant had run into trouble with neighbours, who had complained to local authorities about its late-night customers. Attempts to curtail its business hours were resisted by the family, leading to fights and a court case.
If charged, Rahami would be the second Afghan-American found involved in terrorism recently. Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in June was also of Afghan descent, but was born in the US unlike Rahami.
Mateen, 29, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a call to a police emergency number and mentioned the Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.