Suspected New York bomber officially charged with attempted murder

Ahmad Khan Rahami was wounded in a shootout with police in New Jersey, just four hours after the FBI released a mugshot of him

Police confirmed Ahmad Khan Rahami's arrest and said two officers had been wounded (AFP)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 20 September 2016 9:36 UTC

An Afghan-born American was reportedly charged Monday with attempted murder after being shot and captured in connection with bomb attacks in New York and New Jersey, thrusting security fears into the heart of the US election.

Saturday's bombings, which left 29 people wounded in Manhattan and forced the cancellation of a US Marine Corps race in New Jersey, came on the same day that a Somali-American with possible links to the Islamic State (IS) group went on a stabbing rampage in Minnesota, wounding nine people.

President Barack Obama on Monday called on Americans "not to succumb to fear" in the wake of the attacks.

"Even as we have to be vigilant and aggressive both in preventing senseless acts of violence but also making sure that we find those who carry out such acts and bring them to justice, we all have a role to play as citizens in making sure that we don't succumb to that fear," he said.

Obama stressed that investigators at this point saw "no connection" between the incidents on the East Coast and the Minnesota stabbing.

He said that the resilience of local residents showed that "neither individuals nor organisations like ISIL [Islamic State] can ultimately undermine our way of life".

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was wounded in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, just four hours after the FBI released a mugshot of him and texted alert messages to millions of people, describing him as "armed and dangerous".

ABC News footage showed the bearded Rahami being stretchered into an ambulance, wearing a bloodied bandage on his right arm and moving his head moments after being taken into custody.

Police confirmed his arrest and said two officers had been wounded.

He was later charged with five counts of attempting to murder law enforcement officers, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, US television networks said.

Rahami was injured in the leg and underwent surgery at hospital, one official said. Born in Afghanistan, he worked at his family's fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and is a US citizen.

Investigators are focusing on whether he had co-conspirators and his possible motive in allegedly bombing New York's Chelsea neighbourhood and detonating a pipe bomb along the route of a US Marine Corps race on the Jersey shore.

No links to militant groups

Another pressure cooker device was found and defused close to the scene of the Manhattan explosion, and five pipe bombs were discovered late Sunday in a trash can at the train station in Elizabeth. These were also defused.

Fifteen years after the 11 September 2001 attacks, officials say lone-wolf attacks perpetrated by individuals who may be inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group or al-Qaeda propaganda are the greatest terror threat to the homeland.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that a possible foreign connection would now be an "important line of inquiry".

"Who was Rahami acting with, if anyone? And if he had co-conspirators, what were their alliances?" he told CNN.

Bill Sweeney, a senior FBI official, said he was "ruling nothing out" when asked whether the same suspect was behind the bombs planted in Elizabeth.

"I have no indication there is a cell operating in the area," Sweeney told a news conference in New York.

Authorities have not yet found any links connecting Rahami with militant groups operating in the Middle East.

The New York mayor said authorities were not currently looking for any other suspects in connection with what he called "an act of terror" in Chelsea.

Rahami, who has brown hair, brown eyes and a beard, was apparently seen in surveillance footage taken in Chelsea before the bomb went off. 

CBS television broadcast separate footage that it said showed Rahami dragging a large bag down a street in Chelsea.

Afghan visit

US media reported that he had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the New York Times quoting neighbours as saying he showed signs of radicalisation upon his return.

Police say Rahami had not been previously known to law enforcement, except in connection with a domestic complaint which was later dropped.

Little is known about him, other than the fact that his family sued Elizabeth in 2011, accusing the city and local police department of religious and ethnic discrimination in forcing them to close their chicken restaurant by 10pm.

The suit was settled in 2012 in the city's favour, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told reporters.

The FBI said officers closed in on Rahami after stopping a vehicle in Brooklyn and questioning the passengers, then raiding homes in New Jersey.

IS claims Minnesota attack

Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the New York or New Jersey bombs, the IS-linked news agency, Amaq, claimed that an IS "soldier" carried out the Minnesota stabbings.

A 22-year-old Somali-American injured nine people in a shopping mall in St Cloud on Saturday before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer.

Dahir Ahmed Adan, named as the perpetrator, was a high-achieving student with no known history of violence. His father told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he had "no suspicion" his son had any ties to terrorism.

On the election trail, the attacks distilled contrasting approaches from the two candidates, with Democrat Hillary Clinton touting experience and patient determination and Republican Donald Trump demanding radical change.

Clinton, whose lead in the polls has dipped, said the United States needed to invest "more time and more resources" in confronting the lone-wolf threat.

Presidential Republican hopeful, Donald Trump, however, said that the US must start racially profiling people to avoid future attacks. 

“You know, our police are amazing,” he told Fox News earlier on Monday. “Our local police, they know who a lot of these people are. They’re afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of profiling.”

He went on to cite Israel as an example to follow, saying the country was doing an "unbelievable job".