Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in the explosion that injured 29 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan over the weekend, is in custody after a shootout with the police in Linden, New Jersey, a senior law enforcement official told NBC New York.
The 28-year-old‘s arrest comes two days after an explosion on the night of Sept. 17 rocked Manhattan. Shortly after, another homemade bomb—a pressure cooker with wiring and a cell phone attached—was found a few blocks away. Earlier in the day, a smaller explosion in Seaside Park, New Jersey, was caused by “pipe bomb-style device,” but did not injure anyone. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a wanted notice for Rahami this morning that went out as a phone alert in the New York area.
“We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror,” said New York mayor Bill de Blasio in a press conference in New York City on Monday afternoon. FBI assistant director Bill Sweeney said the motivation for the attack and attempted bombings remains unknown. So far, he said, there is “no indication that there is a [terrorist] cell operating here.”
Currently, de Blasio said, there are no other suspects, although both the mayor and police commissioner James O’Neill said the city will remain on high alert during the week, especially with the United Nations General Assembly taking place. “We always have to stay in a state of alert in New York City,” O’Neill said. “We are the number one target in the world.”
Rahami was shot in the leg during the shootout today, NBC reports. He shot one police officer in the hand and another in the bullet proof vest, news organizations are reporting, but neither injury was life-threatening.
The Associated Press quotes Linden’s mayor saying that Rahami was found sleeping in the hallway of a bar. The owner of the bar called the police, who then realized he was the suspect, Mayor Derek Armstead told the AP. Police say Rahami pulled a gun and began shooting at them.
Police identified Rahami by using the call histories of cell phones attached to the devices found in New Jersey and New York, as well as a fingerprint, NBC reported.
On Sunday night (Sept. 18) two men found a backpack containing wires and a pipe, which authorities determined were five explosives, on a municipal garbage can in Elizabeth. One of the devices exploded while being disarmed by a police robot. Later in the evening, five people were stopped in a car in New Jersey as they were about to cross the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, on their way to the airport. The men, believed to be from the same family, were questioned by the FBI in Manhattan in connection to the bombing, though FBI said “no one has been charged with any crime.”
Linden, a small, otherwise quiet, working class suburban neighborhood, is 4 miles south of Elizabeth—the location of Rahami’s last known address. Rahami is a naturalized American of Afghan origin, according to the FBI.
The New York Times reports that police officers and FBI agents with dogs had been searching a residential area in south Elizabeth. Rahami reportedly lives in the area, on Elmora Avenue, above his family’s restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, where Rahami worked with some of his brothers.
Interviewed by the Times, a restaurant patron said Rahami liked fast cars and appeared to be in the process of taking over the operation of the restaurant from his father. The customer described Rahami as “a very friendly guy” who wore Western clothes and gave his regular customers free food. Of the allegation that he was involved with bombs, the customer said, “he’s a guy you would never expect.”
President Barack Obama this morning praised the cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies in investigating the incidents, as well as the “tough” and “resilient” people of New York and New Jersey.
“Showing the entire world that as Americans we do not and never will give in to fear is going to be the most important ingredient in defeating those who would carry out terrorist acts against us,” said the president, who was in New York for the meeting of the United Nations General assembly this week.