New information sheds light on the fact that Ahmad Khan Rahami might not be a lone wolf. However, there is “no indication” of a terrorist cell in New York, according to FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr.
A man thought to be Rahami was caught on a surveillance video with a duffel bag in the same area of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood where a home-made bomb made with a pressure cooker was found without exploding. Once the suspect left, other two unidentified men entered the scene and removed the home-made bomb from the duffel bag and put it on the sidewalk, said unnamed senior law enforcement official.
Security officers now believe that those two men might not be involved after all, since they were “strolling” and were “incredulous” when they grabbed the duffel bag, according to New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
Now that Rahami was caught, he is going to be interrogated to clear once and for all if he was a lone wolf or if he is following a cell, said Lenny DePaul, a U.S. Marshals Service former commander.
“The real question is: Is there anyone else out there? Was this him solely on his own? Is this a lone wolf or a known wolf that’s slipped through the cracks? Is there an ability to say: If you don’t work with us, everyone around you who may have been complicit may be hit with a conspiracy charge (that may happen anyway), so there’s leverage now that he’s here,” claimed DePaul.
If Rahami did not act alone, then which group is he affiliated to?
When Rahami was caught after the shooting at the bar, he carried with himself a notebook that was full of ramblings but had interesting information such as references to the Boston Marathon bombers and the spokesman for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by CIA five years ago.
Rahami was from Afghanistan and used to travel there frequently. He is currently married to a Pakistani woman who left the U.S. before the bombings occurred.
Now, all his travels to both Pakistan and Afghanistan are under scrutiny, especially to verify if he flew to areas with al Qaeda and Taliban activity. This could help investigators discover if he was radicalized abroad, or in the U.S.
What about ISIS?
ISIS has not much power in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in comparison to groups like Pakistani Tehreek-i Taliban and al Qaeda. ISIS is very new in Afghanistan since it just appeared there last year.
However, the Taliban, through its spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, has denied any involvement in Rahami’s bombings. The Awlaki’s reference is leading investigators to believe that ISIS is also not involved, which has led many to believe Rahami might be a lone wolf.
“This has the flavor of someone who was self-radicalized and perhaps who was inspired but not instructed,” said Former New York state homeland security adviser Michael Balboni.
Why was nobody paying attention to Rahami?
According to officials, Rahami had not previously raised any alarm, since he was not part of any online group nor he used social media. Nonetheless, Rahami’s father, Mohammad R. Rahami had contacted FBI a couple of years ago since he was concerned with his son’s behavior.
“Two years, I called the FBI — my son, he’s doing very bad, OK?” he said. “But they check it almost two months… They say, ‘He’s not a terrorist.’ I said, ‘OK.’ Now they say he is a terrorist. I say, ‘OK’” stated Mr. Rahami.
In 2014, Rahami also stabbed a relative, apparently for “no reason.” However, according to FBI interview, Mr. Rahami downplayed his concerns regarding his son. In the end, FBI did not further investigate the case since they deemed it a “domestic dispute.”
When the “domestic dispute” occurred, Rahami had just come back from a long trip in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the third trip he made since he married five years ago.
Since his capture, his immigration record has been studied, and it has revealed that he went to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011 after marrying. Then, he traveled again and spent from April 2013 to March 2014 overseas.
Rahami was given the standard procedure; this means that he was questioned every time he returned to the U.S. and was also given secondary screenings every time. Rahami just answered he had been visiting family, and the immigration officials’ concerns were satiated.
Rahami arrived in the U.S. in January 1995. His father had reached America years before, seeking asylum. While still a minor in 2003, he was given the U.S. passport, and after declaring it lost was given another in 2007.
It was not until 2011 that Rahami became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Rahami’s family has been living for years above the restaurant First American Fried Chicken. This restaurant had brought them many disagreements with their neighbors since it used to open 24/7.
In 2011, the family filed a lawsuit against the city citing “discrimination and harassment,” and claiming the officials were subjecting them to citations at inappropriate hours.