The father of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect linked to the bombings in New York and New Jersey last weekend, claims the FBI ignored his appeal to “keep an eye” on his “terrorist” son who was interested in jihadi groups like al-Qaeda, the New York Times (NYT) learned during a series of interviews with the elder Rahami this week.
“I told the F.B.I. to keep an eye on him,” Mohammad Rahami, who was born in Afghanistan like his naturalized U.S. citizen son, told NYT. “They said, ‘Is he a terrorist?’ I said: ‘I don’t know. I can’t guarantee you 100 percent if he is a terrorist. I don’t know which groups he is in. I can’t tell you.’”
“The way he speaks, his videos, when I see these things that he listens to, for example, Al Qaeda, Taliban, he watches their videos, their poetry,” Mr. Rahami also said he told the federal agents.
Mr. Rahami reportedly described “his son’s admiration of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was once Al Qaeda’s leading propagandist and is popular with followers of the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL], and also recalled that his son watched Mr. Awlaki’s videos.”
“They [FBI agents] didn’t do their job,” the father told the Times during an interview conducted in his native language, Pashto.
Although Ahmad is believed to have been inspired by al-Qaeda and ISIS, neither group has claimed to be affiliated with the suspected bomber, who has been charged with using weapons of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use in connection with the incidents last weekend that left 29 people wounded and fortunately no one dead.
The Taliban has denied any links to Ahmad.
In a series of interviews with NYTthis week, Mohammad Rahami shared his interactions with the FBI prior to the bombings.
The Times reveals:
His [the father] description of that contact [with the FBI] differs starkly from the one given by law enforcement officials, who on Thursday challenged the father’s account, saying he did not provide the F.B.I. with many of the details about his son that he now says he did.
Mr. Rahami’s contact with the authorities began in August 2014, when the local police in Elizabeth, N.J., responded to the family’s home after a domestic dispute in which Ahmad stabbed his brother, according to court records.
Law enforcement officials familiar with the case who would discuss it only on the condition of anonymity said that Mr. Rahami called his son a “terrorist” when talking to local police, which led to the F.B.I.’s involvement.
When told that the FBI contradicted his account, Mr. Rahami told the Times, “It’s a lie,” adding that he stood by his version of events.
Ahmad was actually arrested in 2014 on weapons and aggravated assault charges and spent over three months in jail in connection with the stabbing of his brother, an incident that occurred a few months after Ahmad had spent nearly a year in the Afghan Taliban stronghold of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, which lies across the border of the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
It was after the stabbing incident in 2014 that Mr. Rahami said he shared his concerns about his son with FBI agents.
Nevertheless, the FBI never interviewed him, reports NYT, citing two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Two years ago I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, O.K.?” he said. “But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s O.K., he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist.’ I say O.K.”
He then added, “Now they say he is a terrorist. I say O.K.”
“The FBI came back to me and said he’s clean,” stressed Mohammad Rahami. “They didn’t find anything on him. But they didn’t interview him.”
“I still had my doubts,” he said. “I was never 100 percent clear.”
Mr. Rahami was born in Kandahar, an al-Qaeda hotbed known as the birthplace of the Taliban, where his son spent several weeks in 2011. Ahmad has traveled to Quetta, Kandahar, and Karachi, Pakistan, which has been linked the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Although his nearly one-year trip to Quetta, which ended in 2014, triggered extra attention from federal authorities, including the FBI, he was reportedly cleared.
Apparently, Ahmad was not the only member of the Rahami family interested or affiliated with terrorist groups. His sister Aziza Rahami shared her brother’s fascination with al-Qaeda and, in fact, “posted a stream of anti-American and jihadist rhetoric online, as questions were mounting about how the FBI came to dismiss repeated concerns about Ahmad Rahami,” reports The Telegraph.
The father fought the Soviet Army in the 80s as a member of the Afghan mujahedeen (jihadists) that gave rise to the Taliban, got Osama bin Laden started on founding al-Qaeda, and spawned other jihadists and terrorist groups.