The mother of Ahmad Khan Rahami’s daughter says the main suspect in a string of jihadi bombings during the weekend was openly anti-American and once told their child that American troops were “bad people.”
The woman, identified only as “Maria,” told Fox News that she feared her former high school sweetheart and “didn’t want him to see [her] daughter.” She said she had not seen him in two years, but still feared “that he would try to take [her] daughter.”
When she was still in contact with him, she said, he would complain about LGBT Americans and “Western culture.” She stated, “He seemed standoffish to American culture, but I never thought he would cross the line.”
As an example, she recalled, “He was watching TV with my daughter and a woman in a [military] uniform came on and he told [their daughter], ‘That’s the bad person.'”
Rahami was a frequent traveler to his native Afghanistan, despite being a naturalized U.S. citizen. He also made several trips to neighboring Pakistan, where he reportedly married and had a child. According to an official speaking to the Daily Beast, Rahami made “at least three and possibly four trips to Pakistan over the past 10 years.” While the details of those trips remain unknown, at least one of them included a stop in Quetta, a city in Pakistan known for its prominent Taliban presence. Rahami spent “several weeks” in Quetta in 2011, when it is believed he married. Some time later, he petitioned New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires to help bring his wife, who has not been named, into the United States. Sires says he “assumes” she made it into the United States, given reports that she fled the country shortly before the string of bombings the past weekend.
Rahami’s family is from Kandahar, Afghanistan, a known hotbed for al-Qaeda activity. Rahami also visited Kandahar on multiple occasions and drove from Kandahar to Quetta at least once.
One of Rahami’s trips to Pakistan lasted more than a year, between April 2013 and March 2014, according to CNN. It is not known whether he had any contact with terror recruiters during that time, but officials say he was questioned upon returning to the country, and police found no suspicious evidence.
In private, however, Maria told Fox News that he was openly uncomfortable with American culture. His family also appeared to have reservations with the American way of life; his father, Mohammed, fought with the mujihadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the same uprising in which Osama bin Laden participated, according to a neighbor, who added that the elder Rahami vocally opposed the Taliban. One of Rahami’s brothers, CNN adds, posted anti-American screeds on social media, including 9/11 conspiracy theories and speeches by famed al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Rahami was arrested Monday morning after a gunfight with police outside of a bar in Linden, New Jersey. He is the prime suspect in a series of bombings that began on Saturday in Seaside Park, New Jersey, continued in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and culminated with the discovery of five improvised bombs in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Rahami reportedly lived with his family. The Rahami family are the proprietors of the First American Fried Chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, which Mayor Christian Bollwage told reporters had “caused disturbances” in the neighborhood for “many, many years.”