Chelsea Bombing Suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, Captured Alive
Pipe-bomb style explosive devices were detonated in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Suspected of detonating the devices is 28 year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Rahami is a United Stated citizen who was born in Afghanistan, but arrived in the U.S. as a child.
Rahami was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar in Linden, New Jersey. He was captured soon after a brief gunfight with law enforcement, sustaining multiple, non life-threatening wounds then taken to a local hospital.
The first device exploded inside of a trashcan in Seaside Park, New jersey. This was intended to fatally disrupt a Marine Corps charity 5K race scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Much to the fortune of competitors and spectators, the race was delayed. Rahami stifled the bomb’s potential blast radius (likely unintentionally), by placing it inside of a trashcan. A change in start time of the race and placement inside of a trashcan were factors in the Seaside Park attack leaving no injuries.
The second explosion on Saturday was in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Again, there were no fatalities, however 29 people were injured in this attack. Like the first bomb, this was inexplicably placed - here, inside of a dumpster. The dumpster significantly lessened the bomb's impact. Bomb experts claim the Chelsea bomb would have had a significantly larger impact on the community if it were not placed inside a dumpster. It remains unclear whether these two attacks were related. However, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force noted the similarities in the two devices.
Investigators struggled to decipher Rahami’s motivations due to his nearly non-existent social media presence and found no obvious ties or communication with terror organizations.
The FBI’s handling of Rahami prior to Saturday has heightened concerns about the federal government’s ability to properly vet individuals who pose a potential threat to national security. Cross-referencing Saturday’s attacks with Rahami’s recent trips abroad have sparked new questions about the FBI’s investigative methods of terror suspects. A twelve-month visit to Pakistan in 2014 led to a customs official flagging Mr. Rahami for secondary screening. He passed these security measures, but was again questioned by federal authorities less than a year later when his father contacted law enforcement during a domestic dispute. His father initially informed law enforcement that he believed his son had ‘terrorist sympathies,’ but later retracted that statement.
Many fearful of a terrorist entering the country through refugee status or similar paths are unaware of how rigorous the process truly is to enter the country. In order to enter the U.S. as a refugee, one must complete dozens of perpetual background checks, medical examinations, etc. for 18 to 24 months. It is arguably the single most rigorous process in existence, yet politicians frequently tout (falsely) that people are entering the United States without proper vetting. That sentiment is false.
*Thumbnail photo credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald, via Associated Press