Who Is Ahmad Khan Rahami?

Ahmad Rahami was born in Afghanistan but his family moved to the United States when he was still a child. He earned naturalized citizenship in 2011.

Ahmad Khan Rahami

Law enforcement agencies on Monday arrested the lead suspect in a series of non-fatal bombings in New Jersey and New York City over the weekend. Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old Afghanistan-born American citizen, was captured in Linden, New Jersey, after a shootout.

While the authorities have not publicly disclosed how Rahami is connected to the bombings, they believe him to be their “main guy.” The investigators haven't said if he had any help carrying out the explosion that injured 29 people in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and the one that occurred near a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

The police are still questioning Rahami, who was injured during his dramatic arrest.

Here is what we know about him so far:

Personal History:

Ahmad Khan Rahami

Rahami was born in Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 1988. His family moved to the United States when he was still a child. The suspect earned naturalized citizenship in 2011 and almost immediately took a trip to his birth country.

Officials believe Rahami has made at least three to four trips to Pakistan over the past decade. He was not on any terror watch lists that would have alerted authorities to his travel outside the country.

Friends and family believe he became a “completely different person” after he returned from Afghanistan.

Family Business:

New Jersey Bombing

In 2002, Rahami's family opened a chicken joint, First American Fried Chicken, in Elizabeth, where he worked with his brothers. The court documents show the family declared bankruptcy in 2005 with his father, Mohammed, claiming eight dependents.

They still dwell in an apartment above the restaurant.

In 2011, Rahami’s father reportedly traveled to Pakistan. It was the same year the family filed a discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the city and its police department, complaining officials had illegally shut down their restaurant because of the Islamophobic local residents.

Mayor Chris Bollwage said the 2012 ruling on the case favored the city. He also called the restaurant, which used to be open 24-hours a day, “disruptive in the city for many, many years.”

New Jersey Bombing

Yelp reviewers have since bombarded the restaurant’s page with bomb jokes, Islamophobic insults and death threats. Some even called for “ethnic cleansing.” The First American Fried Chicken previously had an average rating of 4.67 with three reviews.

The page has now been shut down.

Change in Rahami’s Attitude:


Ahmad Rahami’s childhood friend Flee Jones, who was also a regular patron at the chicken place, told The New York Times that Rahami used to play football as a kid, used to wear Western-style clothing, liked rapping and even let his friends host rap battles in the back of their restaurant. He liked to race his Honda Civic and hook friends up with free food from his family's restaurant when they were short on cash.

However, things changed after Rahami “disappeared” for a while and came back a changed man. His young brother allegedly told Jones that Rahami had gone to Afghanistan — he now sported a beard and had exchanged his usual attire for traditional Muslim robes.

“It’s like he was a completely different person,” Jones said. “He got serious and completely closed off.”

Marriage in Pakistan:

During a visit to Pakistan, Rahami got married. Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, claimed Rahami contacted his office in 2014 and asked for help bringing his pregnant wife to the U.S. Apparently, the American Embassy in the capital city of Islamabad had told her to wait until her baby was born.  

Sires does not know if she and her baby eventually arrived in the country.

Problems With Law:

In 2014, Rahami was arrested for weapons possession and aggravated assault for stabbing someone in the leg in a domestic incident, according to The New York Times. He spent three months in jail but was not indicted.

He was also arrested for unpaid traffic tickets in 2008 and violating a restraining order in 2012. 

How Authorities Found Him:


The authorities first identified Rahami through his fingerprints, according to a senior law enforcement official, who said the cell phone connected to the pressure cooker device found in New York City also provided some clues.

After the police plastered Rahami’s pictures on television and social media, Harinder Bains, the owner of Merdie's Tavern in Linden, alerted the officials and told them he had spotted the suspect sleeping in the doorway of his bar.

Once the police arrived, Rahami tried to run away and reportedly shot at a police car, injuring an officer. The chase ended after the police shot Rahami multiple times and transported him to a hospital for surgery.

View Comments

Recommended For You