Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was apprehended Monday, Sept. 19, after a shootout in Linden, New Jersey, just hours after local and federal authorities launched a massive manhunt to capture him on suspicion of planting bombs in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend. An alert with his photo was widely published by cell phone. Rahami, who is of Afghan origin, is believed to have had accomplices. Our sources add that the five occupants of an SUV packed with IEDs stopped on a Brooklyn highway Sunday night are relatives. They were taken in for questioning.
Rahami was wanted for questioning in the Chelsea bombing, in which 29 people were injured, and two bombing incidents in New Jersey. Rahami, a naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan and resident of New Jersey, was described as “armed and dangerous.”
The alert and photo of the wanted man were accompanied by the police raid of Rahami's apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey, after an explosion was triggered at the local rail station by a bomb squad robot examining a bag that turned out to contain five pipe bombs.
The information coming in on the series of terrorist incidents over the weekend points strongly to the presence of a large-scale terrorist network, almost certainly linked to Al Qaeda, in New York and New Jersey.
debkafile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources reported Monday morning:
The same cell phone-activated mechanisms were found in the explosive device that injured 29 people in the Chelsea district of New York, Sunday, Sept. 18, the unexploded pressure cooker found on 27th Street and the pipe bomb, the only one of three which exploded harmlessly before a Marines charity run in New Jersey.
This was discovered in the preliminary local and federal investigations of the string of weekend terrorist events.
Another discovery was that the same man carrying a piece of luggage showed up on security cameras at the two Manhattan bomb scenes, as he dropped an object in a dumpster in Chelsea and another on 27th Street. Two witnesses also saw a man acting suspiciously.
This individual is the object of a wide hunt. Overnight, local authorities reported that agents pulled over a “vehicle of interest” on a Brooklyn highway and were questioning its five occupants, although no arrests were announced.
Then, in New Jersey Monday, Sept. 19, a suspect back pack was being examined by a robot at Elizabeth station when it exploded, proving to contain five pipe bombs. The area had been cordoned off and no one was hurt.
The New York Police and FBI have declined to confirm reports that the Chelsea explosion was caused by the same kind of shrapnel-filled pressure cooker bomb as the unexploded device found intact on 27th Street.
This would point strongly to the same modus operandi as two previous acts of terror by Al Qaeda: the first on May 1, 2010, when an American of Pakistani descent Faisal Shahzad was recruited by al Qaeda to park a bomb car containing an explosive pressure cooker on Times Square; the second, on April 15, three years later, when the brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated a pressure cooker bomb against the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 140.
The latest round of terrorist attacks occurred three years after the Boston crime. Could the Islamist terrorists be operating in three-year cycles? It is too soon to say.
However, if the same hands were behind the New York and New Jersey operations, this would show that Islamic terror has enhanced its capabilities in the United States and able to scatter a variety of explosive devices in several places at once. The apparent link to Al Qaeda would be critical. Investigators are finding it hard to determine whether the New York and New Jersey outrages should be attributed to Al Qaeda or ISIS.
debkafile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources can shed some light on this conundrum. Last month, we disclosed the startling arrival in Syria of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous terrorist master, Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian whose real name is Mohammed Salah al-Din Zaidan
He did not come alone, but along with his top operational team. They are believed to have reached Syria from Pakistan smuggled through Iran and Iraq. On arrival, Saif al-Adel, who has 21 years of major anti-American terrorist crimes behind him, including the 1998 East African US embassy bombings, dropped off the radar of intelligence agencies after he landed in Syria.
He is presumed to have gone under ground – whether to join up with ISIS or with Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm Jabhat Fath Al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front), from which to branch out for a fresh international campaign against America.
If indeed this top terror pro has gone to work for the Islamic State, the latest round of attacks would mark the start of a cooperative Al Qaeda-ISIS project for sowing terror in the United States. It is worth noting that the Islamic State quickly claimed as a “soldier of Allah” the Somali jihadist refugee, who stabbed nine people in a Minnesota mall, whereas no group has yet claimed the Manhattan and New Jersey bombings.
Security is now tightened in NYC as the United Nations General Assembly this week goes into session, for which at least 200 heads of state and foreign ministers have begun arriving. Some 1,000 New York State police and National Guard members, some in heavy weapons units, are already fanned out across the city at sensitive points.