FBI evidence against Ahmed Khan Rahami, the main suspect in a string of bombs in New York and New Jersey last week, heavily suggests Rahami did little to hide his plan, including testing explosives in broad daylight.
The Wall Street Journal argues that a number of points of evidence revealed in the charges against Rahami, including a video found on a relative’s mobile phone and numerous purchases under his name on the trading site eBay, indicate that Rahami was operating “in plain view” with little concern about being caught.
“It’s pretty hard to imagine he built all these bombs and nobody noticed anything,’’ a senior law-enforcement official told the newspaper.
The video showing Rahami testing an explosive is the most damning evidence. The Wall Street Journal identifies the relative carrying the video as one of Rahami’s sisters, and notes that the video has been confirmed to have been shot in the family’s backyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey. An explosion can be seen in the video, law enforcement sources say, following by “laughter” and Rahami appearing on camera to pick up the remnants of the bomb.
Rahami built and planted at least eight explosives in Seaside Park, New Jersey; Elizabeth, and the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. A car registered to Rahami was caught traveling into Manhattan the night of the Chelsea bombing, and his fingerprints appear on all the explosive devices found so far.
Police have confirmed that Rahami purchased the materials to build his bombs on eBay. Rather than using a pseudonym or hiding his internet footprints, he bought them with the user name “ahmad rahimi” and had them sent to a business where he was employed in Perth Amboy, about a half hour from Elizabeth. Two of the mobile phones used as bomb detonators were registered to Rahami relatives.
While Rahami had no known jihadi social media footprint, he declared his motives in a notebook found on his person after his arrest in Linden, New Jersey. His notes reference Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden. Rahami wrote that he was “praying… for shahadat” and hoping not to be caught alive. He has not cooperated with police since his arrest.
Although Rahami was not an avid social media use, The Australian has found Facebook posts it claims belong to a sister, Aziza, rife with jihad references and support for radical Islamic regimes. “If defending ourselves is terrorism then let history be witness that we are terrorists!” a post on the Facebook page read, as well as “yes to Khilafah Islamiyah [Islamic Caliphate].” It is not known whether this sister is the same one carrying the video of Rahami testing explosives on his phone. The Facebook account in question has been taken down.
In addition to overt evidence that Rahami was planning a terrorist attack, Rahami’s father reported his son to the FBI in 2014, after the younger Rahami stabbed a sibling during a family dispute. Rahami had visited his family’s native Afghanistan and Pakistan on multiple occasions by 2014, spending over a year in the region on one occasion and marrying a Pakistani woman, Aziza Bibi Rahami. Despite Mohammed Rahami telling the FBI his son was a potential terrorist and his suspect stays in known terror hotbeds, authorities did not find sufficient evidence to consider the younger Rahami a threat.