The father of the suspect in the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey is from the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, a known stronghold of the Taliban and its ally al Qaeda, and, like Osama bin Laden, was part of the Afghan mujahedeen who fought the Soviet Army, reports The New York Times (NYT).
Kandahar, where the alleged bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami spent some time in 2011, is known as the birthplace of the Taliban.
Moreover, core al Qaeda is believed to have returned to Kandahar to reestablish its former Afghan headquarters there and plan attacks against the West after U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO declared an end to their combat mission in Afghanistan on December 31, 2014, and withdrew most of their troops.
Mohammad Rahami, the father, is also known to be opposed to the war in Afghanistan, where a U.S.-led coalition has been fighting the Taliban, al Qaeda, and more recently an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch since October 2001.
CNN reports on air that the Afghan Taliban has denied any involvement with the suspected bomber Ahmad Rahami.
Some evidence suggests that the suspected bomber, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, may have been linked or at least inspired by al Qaeda.
Citing Jonathan Wagner, 26, a childhood friend of the alleged attacker, NYT reports that the father, Mohammad Rahami said “he was from Kandahar and had been part of the mujahedeen [jihadists] in Afghanistan that fought the Soviet Army.”
“While the father said he did not harbor anti-American feeling, he opposed the war in Afghanistan,” notes NYT, adding, “But, Mr. Wagner said, the elder Rahami was dubious of the Taliban and detested ISIS [the Islamic State].”
The late Osama bin Laden is known to have fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan. He founded al Qaeda near the end of that war.
The elder Rahami reportedly traveled to Pakistan and maybe Afghanistan in 2011. That same year, his son, the suspected bomber, also traveled to areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan known as al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban strongholds.
Rahami, 28, spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011, according to a law enforcement official who reviewed his travel and immigration record.
Two years later, in April 2013, he went to Pakistan and remained there until March 2014 before returning to the US, official said.
Besides his most recent trip to Quetta, Mr. Rahami [the son] visited Karachi, Pakistan, in 2005. Both of those cities’ reputations have become entwined with the militant groups who have sheltered there: Karachi as a haven for the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Quetta as the headquarters of the exiled Afghan Taliban leadership.
Some of Rahami’s friends are quoted by various news outlets as saying that his personality changed and he became more religious after his trip to what they believed was Afghanistan.
Investigators are looking into whether he was radicalized overseas before returning to the United States in 2014… As of Monday, the law enforcement official said, there is no indication he was on the radar before this weekend, when explosions went off in New York and New Jersey.
However, the alleged bomber had been arrested for serious offenses after his trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He [Ahmad Rahami] was arrested in 2014 on weapons and aggravated assault charges for allegedly stabbing a relative in the leg in a domestic incident, according to court documents. He spent over three months in jail on the charges, according to a high-ranking law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. A grand jury, however, declined to indict Mr. Rahami. He also spent a day in jail in February 2012 for allegedly violating a restraining order, the official said.
NBC News has learned from an anonymous law enforcement official familiar with the investigation into the bombings that “a note found on the pressure cooker bomb left on 27th Street in Manhattan Saturday referenced Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al-Qaida-linked cleric killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.”
That does not necessarily link the suspected bomber to al Qaeda given that Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) members and other Sunni jihadists have been known to be fans of Awlaki. ISIS does maintain a presence in Afghanistan.
However, the areas the suspected bombers visited in Afghanistan and Pakistan are breeding grounds affiliated with ISIS rivals al Qaeda and the Taliban.
In April of this year, a top Afghan official and two top U.S. military officers warned that the relationship between the the Taliban and al Qaeda was growing stronger and that core al Qaeda was very active and preparing to launch bigger attacks.
The following month The Telegraph reported:
Al-Qaeda has re-established its terrorist headquarters in southern Afghanistan and is using it as a base to plan major attacks against the West, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.
After more than a decade of hiding across the border in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, al-Qaeda terrorist cells have moved back into southern Afghanistan following the withdrawal of British and American forces at the end of 2014.