New York: 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 Daesh went on a stabbing rampage in Minnesota, wounding nine people.
President Barack Obama, in New York on Monday to attend the UN General Assembly with other world leaders, called on Americans “not to succumb to fear.”
He stressed that investigators at this point saw no connection between the incidents on the East Coast and the Minnesota stabbings, where police said the assailant made “some references to Allah” in carrying out the attack.
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 carried into an ambulance on a stretcher, 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 indication of NY terror cell
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 September 11, 2001 attacks, officials say lone-wolf attacks perpetrated by individuals who may be inspired by Daesh or Al Qaida propaganda are the greatest terror threat to the homeland.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that a possible foreign terror 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.
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.
US media reported that he had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the New York Times quoting neighbours as saying he showed signs of radicalization upon his return.
Clinton, Trump spar
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.
Although there has been no claim of responsibility for the New York or New Jersey bombs, a jihadist-linked news agency, Amaq, claimed that a Daesh “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 Ahmad 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.
Trump condemned the Obama administration’s “weak” policies in opening the doors to “tens of thousands” of foreign immigrants, predicting more such attacks.
“I’ve been saying you’ve got to stop it,” Trump told Fox News.