New York bombing suspect was inspired by ‘Brother Osama’

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2016 00:23 IST
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (left) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) arrive at the scene of an explosion on West 23rd Street September on Sunday (AFP)

Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was charged on Tuesday with carrying out multiple bombings in New York and New Jersey, was inspired by “Brother Osama bin Laden”, according to a handwritten journal kept by him.

The journal also had “laudatory references” to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen, and Nidal Hasan, a US army doctor who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, US federal authorities said in a criminal complaint.

Reports said the FBI was hunting for two men possibly connected to one of the bombs planted in New York by Rahami which failed to detonate. The men allegedly “located a piece of luggage on the sidewalk, removed an improvised explosive device from the luggage, and then left the vicinity leaving the device behind.”

Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalised American citizen of Afghan descent, has been charged with using weapons of mass destruction, bombing a public place, destruction of property. The charges will keep him jailed for life if upheld in court.

Rahami was also charged by the state of New Jersey with attempted murder for shooting and wounding two law enforcement officers during the exchange of fire leading to his capture. He was also injured. The journal found in his possession bore a bullet hole, possibly from the shooting, and some parts of it were soaked in his blood.

Though some of the writing was supposedly illegible, according to the federal complaint, there was enough to give a significant amount of insight into his thinking. “You (US government) continue your (unintelligible) slaught(er) against the mujahideen be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria), Palestine …”

The entries concluded on an ominous note: “Inshallah (god willing) the sounds of the bombs will be heard on the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to your oppression.”

Rahami planted two home-made improvised explosive devices which he built with pressure cookers in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood, one of which exploded and injured 29 people. The other didn’t.

He planted two separate bunches of pipe bombs in New Jersey, one of which exploded just before a charity race was to begin on Saturday morning, though no one was killed or injured. The second lot of pipe bombs was found at a New Jersey train station.

Rahami’s family, which came to the United States when he was seven, runs a restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he also worked. He is said to have travelled several times to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he met and married a local girl.

Rahami’s travels to the region, especially Pakistan, are the focus of investigations as they could yield the origins and motivation for his radicalisation.

Not much is known, or revealed, about who helped him, if at all. Was he working alone? The federal complaint showed he started preparing months ago, ordering ingredients for the bombs in a piecemeal manner to an address in New Jersey where he lived. He received the last shipment on August 10 — citric acid — and probably conducted a test in his backyard just two days before the New York-New Jersey attacks that was caught on video.

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