Officials Offer Few Details on Motives of Chelsea Bombing Suspect

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio at the press conference
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio at the press conference
Ed Reed / Mayor's Office

Authorities have arrested the man they believe is behind Saturday's bombing in Chelsea, an unexploded pressure cooker found in Manhattan, and at least eight other pipe bombs found in New Jersey. But at a press conference at NYPD headquarters Monday afternoon, they revealed little else about the possible motives of the suspect, 28-year-old Ahman Khan Rahami, who was taken into custody after a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey.

"We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the press conference, adding that no other individuals are being sought in relation to the attack.

"We have directly linked Rahami to devices from New York and from Saturday in New Jersey," FBI assistant director William Sweeney Jr. said. Sweeney told reporters that there was no indication Rahami acted as part of a terrorist cell, adding only that "the investigation is ongoing."

"That’s all going to be part of the investigation – you know, what the motivation was," said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, who was sworn in shortly before the press conference. "We don’t have that yet, and again, this is going to be part of as we go forward here."

The passengers in a vehicle that was pulled over and detained on the Belt Parkway near Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn on Sunday night in connection with the bombings were released, and no charges were filed against them. Asked who was in the vehicle, assistant director Sweeney replied, "I’m not going to comment on that."

Rahami, an Afghan immigrant who is a U.S. citizen, was apprehended after a bar owner in Linden called police officers about a man sleeping in a doorway of his business this morning. Rahami exchanged gunfire with two police officers who arrived on the scene. One officer was shot in the hand and another struck in his bullet-proof vest, while Rahami was shot in the leg and taken away in an ambulance; none of the injuries are life-threatening.

Officials said they identified Rahami by a fingerprint found on one of the explosive devices in Manhattan, as well as by watching surveillance footage. His last known address was listed in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where a raid was conducted by federal authorities Monday at an apartment above Rahami’s family-run fast-food restaurant, First American Fried Chicken. According to the Times, after a number of complaints by neighbors about the restaurant drawing "rowdy crowds past midnight," a city ordinance forced them to close their 24-hour business by 10 p.m. The family filed a federal lawsuit against the city, stating they'd been discriminated against because of their ethnic background, but Elizabeth's mayor denied the allegations of bias.

The Times also reports that Rahami, who once wore jeans and favored souped-up Honda Accords, traveled to Afghanistan and came back "a completely different person."

Around four years ago, though, Mr. Rahami disappeared for a while. Mr. Jones said that one of the younger Rahami brothers told him that he had gone to Afghanistan. When he returned, some patrons noticed a certain transformation. He grew a beard and exchanged his typical wardrobe of T-shirts and sweatpants for traditional Muslim robes. He began to pray in the back of the store.

His previous genial bearing turned more stern.

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


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