Suspect in New York-Area Bombings Tied to All Three Incidents: Source
Ahmad Khan Rahami was taken into custody in Linden, New Jersey
Ahmad Khan Rahami, who officials believe is connected to Saturday and Monday’s bombings in New York and New Jersey, was wounded and taken into custody Monday morning after a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, PEOPLE confirms.
Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said at a Monday press conference that two officers were wounded in a shootout: One was shot in the hand, one in the vest. Neither officer is in critical condition, officials said at a Monday press conference.
A federal counterterrorism official tells PEOPLE that Rahmani, 28, was shot three times: Once in the arm, once in the abdomen and once in the leg. As of 1 p.m. on Monday, he was undergoing medical procedures, the official said.
William Sweeney of the FBI said Monday that evidence “directly links Rahami to the devices in both New York and New Jersey,” and the counterterrorism official confirmed that Rahmani is a suspect in all three bombings in New York and New Jersey since Saturday: Saturday’s bombing in Seaside Park, Saturday’s Chelsea bombing, and Monday’s explosion at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jesey.
The counterterrorism official added an alleged motive is unknown, and that Rahami was “not on the radar” of federal law enforcement. The counterterrorism source tells PEOPLE officials are still trying to identify known associates of Rahami who may have been involved. Officials are also trying to determine whether his actions were either directed or inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, the counterterrorism official says.
According to the counterterrorism official, investigators were executing two search warrants at addresses associated with Rahami.
Saturday night’s explosion in Chelsea injured 29 people, all of whom have since been released from the hospital, NBC News reports.
The counterterrorism official said officials were still trying to determine who placed the bombs in the trash can in Seaside Park. No one was injured in the Seaside Park bombing.
A separate federal source confirms to PEOPLE that flip-style cell phones were used as a detonator for the two bombs in Chelsea (a second device was discovered on Saturday night and disarmed by authorities) and the bomb that went off ahead of a charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey, which is about 85 miles south of Manhattan. Both bombings occurred within hours of each other on Saturday.
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Five people who were detained by the FBI on Sunday night in connection with the case. Those individuals were taken in for questioning during a traffic stop at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the bridge that connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The FBI states that no one has been charged with any crime as the investigation is ongoing.
The counterterrorism official tells PEOPLE that the vehicle stopped was allegedly associated with Rahami, and that the vehicle was en route to JFK Airport.
Early Monday morning a police robot detonated a backpack full of pipe bombs in Elizabeth, which is about 20 miles from Manhattan. The federal source tells PEOPLE that it unclear if the same style of flip-phone was connected to the bombs found in Elizabeth.
The source adds that investigators believe the five persons of interest detained are from Elizabeth, New Jersey, but have not yet confirmed any connection to the devices found there overnight.
Local Man Knew Suspect’s Family
The counterterrorism official tells PEOPLE that a Tumblr user who claimed responsibility for the attack in a post was “an emotionally disturbed person with no connection to the attack.” The official says that person has been taken into custody.
Johnathan Wagner, 26, who tells PEOPLE he grew up with Rahami, tells PEOPLE he would have never suspected Rahami would be involved in an incident like Saturday’s.
Wagner, a former marine, would have conversations with the family about Afghanistan: “I would spark up conversations with the father and a few of the brothers would joke around,” he says.
“They were nice,” he says of the Rahami family. “When I got out of the military and sometimes didn’t have money and was in between jobs, they’d help me. Or if I was hungry, they’d give me food, something to drink.”
He adds, “I never thought someone in the family would do something like this.”
Reporting by SUSAN KEATING and DIANE HERBST