Police Arrest New York Bombing Suspect Following Gunfight

by
Reuters
An Afghanistan-born American suspected of detonating a bomb that injured 29 people in New York City and of planting other devices in New York and New Jersey was arrested on Monday after a gun battle with police, but investigators said his motive was unknown.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Elizabeth, New Jersey, was taken into custody hours after authorities publicly identified him as the prime suspect in the Saturday night blast and sent out an alert to millions of mobile phone users.

Police said they were not looking for other suspects and New York's mayor said the bombing was being treated as "an act of terror."

Police suspect Rahami was also behind a bomb that exploded in New Jersey on Saturday, a device found near the New York blast, and up to six more devices found near the Elizabeth train station on Sunday night.The bombings and subsequent manhunt came days before world leaders began gathering at the United Nations in New York for the annual General Assembly this week. Officials fortified an already robust security plan for New York with 1,000 additional officers.

Police in Linden, New Jersey, which neighbors Elizabeth about 20 miles (32 km) west of New York, captured Rahami after responding to a complaint by a bar owner of a man sleeping in the closed establishment's hallway.

"The officer realized that this might be the person that the FBI was looking for. The officer then said, 'show me your hands,' and the person went to the side of his body and pulled out a handgun and fired a round at the officer, striking him in the abdomen. Fortunately the officer had his bulletproof vest on," Linden Police Captain James Sarnicki told reporters.

Rahami also fired on a police car, injuring an officer with broken glass that struck his forehead, officials said.

Police fired back, wounding Rahami in the arm and leg. He was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery. His condition was not considered life threatening, police officials said.

Rahami had not previously been identified as dangerous but his family was known to police as a result of late-night noise and crowd complaints at a family halal chicken restaurant in Elizabeth.

"They say if you see something, say something, and other than making lousy fried chicken they just seemed pretty normal," said Jonathan Banker, who works in a dentist's office across the street.

NO MOTIVE, NO CELL

Investigators said they had not yet determined a motive for the bombings and there was no indication that an extremist cell was operating in the area, William Sweeney of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York division told a news conference.

"There is no other individual we're looking for at this point in time," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference, during which he called on New Yorkers to remain vigilant. "We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror."

Five people who had been taken into custody in Brooklyn late on Sunday for questioning after being observed by law enforcement officers at a location associated with Rahami were released without charges, Sweeney said.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised police for the quick apprehension of Rahami and said he saw no connection between the explosions and a separate weekend incident where a man stabbed nine people at a mall in central Minnesota before being shot dead.

The Minnesota attacker was described a "soldier of the Islamic State," the militant group's news agency said.

"The FBI is investigating the Minnesota incident as a potential act of terrorism. We will direct the full resources of the federal government to make sure that the investigation goes forward aggressively," Obama said.

Authorities believe Rahami was responsible for the bomb that ripped through Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night, an unexploded pressure cooker bomb found four blocks away, plus a bomb that exploded 80 miles (130 km) away earlier on Saturday on the New Jersey shore.

U.S. authorities also believe the devices found in Elizabeth are linked to the Chelsea bombing, Homeland Security Officials told Reuters.

Two men walking past the Elizabeth train station noticed a backpack left in a trash bin and took it, thinking it might contain something valuable, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told reporters. They called police when they noticed wires and a pipe inside.

As many as five potential explosive devices tumbled out when it was emptied, Bollwage said. After cordoning off the area, a bomb squad used a robot to cut a wire to try to disable the device and set off an explosion, he said.

The bombings and attack in Minnesota became the focus of the U.S. presidential campaign, with the two main candidates turning on each other in response to the events.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said Republican Rival Donald Trump's rhetoric was helping extremist groups to recruit, while Trump countered that Clinton's "weakness while she was secretary of state has emboldened terrorists all over the world to attack the U.S."