Mohammad Rahami, the father of the man arrested in connection with multiple bomb attacks throughout New York and New Jersey, says his son was “fascinated” by jihadi propaganda and frighteningly invested in al-Qaeda and Taliban “poetry.”
In an interview with the New York Times, the elder Rahami said his son appeared obsessed with jihadi materials and called his interest “a disease.” He noted once again that he had reported his son to the FBI as “a terrorist” in 2014 because he was concerned that his son’s behavior had changed. The “terrorist” report followed a domestic dispute in which Ahmed Rahami stabbed his brother, Mohammad Khan Rahami.
“In two months, the FBI came back to me and said he’s clean,” the father told the New York Times. “They didn’t find anything on him. But they didn’t interview him… I still had my doubts. I was never 100 percent clear.”
Mohammad Rahami also spoke to the Associated Press Friday. “I condemn the act of my son and I am sad over injuries caused to people,” he said. He added that he found in his son “a change in personality. His mind was not the same. He had become bad and I don’t know what caused it but I informed the FBI about it.”
Mohammad Rahami told authorities he was concerned with “these things that he listens to, for example, Al Qaeda, Taliban, he watches their videos, their poetry.” Law enforcement officials have asserted repeatedly that the heeded Rahami reporting his son but found no evidence to act in 2014.
“We get leads like this all the time and 99.9 percent of them go nowhere,” a law enforcement official told NJ Advance Media. The 2014 report, he added, cited that the elder Rahami “used the T word” but “didn’t say he was looking up information on internet or building bombs, he just used the T word.”
Officials found “no derogatory information whatsoever” on the younger Rahami.
The Rahami family is native to Afghanistan; Ahmed Khan Rahami became a U.S. citizen as an 11-year-old. He reportedly made up to four trips back to Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout the years, including one lasting over a year in which he married a Pakistani woman. Authorities say they initially had no indication he had spent any extensive period of time in terrorist-controlled areas, though it was later revealed that Rahami had spent time in Quetta, Pakistan, a Taliban stronghold.
Following his return from that final trip to Pakistan, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol alerted the FBI that Rahami had returned from a suspicious area, but a further FBI review found no cause for concern. That report preceded the stabbing incident that led to Mohammad Rahami reporting his son; police insist it is “not realistic” to expect that terrorists like Rahami, who had no public jihadi footprint on social media, will be caught.
While Mohammad Rahami has argued that he did everything he could to alert authorities to his son’s extremist views, friends of the family have told media outlets that Rahami was a strict father so alarmed by his son’s easy assimilation into the diverse Edison High School, New Jersey community that he forced him into a trip to Pakistan, where he abandoned him to find his way home on his own. That trip reportedly occurred shortly after Rahami impregnated his high school girlfriend. The mother of his child, Maria Mena, has filed for a restraining order and full custody of their daughter.