Federal investigators say in the official complaint against Ahmed Khan Rahami, charged with conducting multiple jihadi attacks in New York and New Jersey, that a relative of Rahami’s possessed a video of Rahami detonating a “cylindrical container” in the family’s back yard.
Multiple facts uncovered by the FBI and local law enforcement investigation raise questions regarding Rahami’s family’s potential involvement in the criminal scheme, which resulted in three different explosions injuring 31 people. In addition to the video of Rahami conducting a controlled explosion in the family’s backyard recorded on a relative’s telephone, two of the mobile phones used to detonate the bombs in Chelsea, Manhattan and Seaside Park, New Jersey were registered in the names of relatives of Rahami.
The charges brought to the Southern District of New York and New Jersey District Court include multiple counts of use of a weapon of mass destruction, multiple counts of use of a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence, and bombing of a public transportation system (the Elizabeth, New Jersey train station).
FBI special agent Peter Fredrick Licata writes that fingerprints on two of the bombs positively correlate to Rahami, that he was caught on CCTV video walking to the site of the Chelsea explosion, and that his eBay account was found to have bought at least four different items known to be used in the types of bombs Rahami made.
Licata introduces evidence indicating that Rahami’s relatives were aware of, and possibly involved, in the scheme. He notes that two different mobile phones were used as detonators in Seaside Park and Chelsea, both purchased at a Perth Amboy, NJ store where Rahami worked until around September 12. The phone used in the Chelsea bombing was “registered to a family member of Rahami’s,” the complaint reads.
Licata goes on to note that investigators found a video of Rahami detonating an explosive. “Video recovered from the cellular telephone belonging to a family member of AHMAD KHAN RAHAMI, alkl a [sic] ‘Ahmad Rahimi,’… depicts RAHAMI igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container (“Video”),” the complaint notes. The video is dated two days before the Chelsea bombings and appears to have been filmed in the backyard of the family home and business in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
“Partially buried in the ground is a small, black cylindrical object. A fuse is lit and the object ignites; the Video depicts the lighting of the fuse, a loud noise and flames, followed by billowing smoke and laughter. RAHAMI then enters the frame and is seen picking up the cylindrical container,” Licata writes.
Rahami’s family has become the focal point of the investigation, as he is believed to have lived for some time with his relatives in the Elizabeth apartment, and worked at the family business, First American Fried Chicken. His father, Mohammed Rahami, fought with the Afghan mujihadeen against the Soviet Union, the jihadi militia where Osama bin Laden rose to prominence. Mohammed Rahami reported his son to the FBI as a potential terrorist threat in 2014, though authorities did little to follow up on that report, as the elder Rahami recanted his complaint.
Rahami’s mother and wife have both left the country, his wife leaving mere days before the explosions back to her native Pakistan. She was stopped in the United Arab Emirates, and the New York Times reports the FBI is working to bring her back into the United States.
Rahami’s family has been involved in extensive litigation with the city of Elizabeth over their restaurant. Formerly open 24 hours a day, the restaurant developed a reputation as a nuisance and a criminal hangout. Police ultimately forced the restaurant to limit its hours, and the family sued, citing anti-Muslim discrimination. The suit was thrown out of court.
Rahami married his wife during an extended stay to Afghanistan, from which friends say he returned “real religious,” wearing Islamic garb and praying at the back of his family’s restaurant. Even before that trip, however, the mother of his first child says he had caught him attempting to indoctrinate their daughter into hating American soldiers.