Suspect Ahmad Rahami nabbed in N.Y.-area bombings

A bloody shootout on a New Jersey street ended Monday with the arrest of a suspect in bomb blast that wounded 29 people Saturday in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, authorities said.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, and two police officers were wounded in the gunfight in Linden — hours after authorities found more explosives at a New Jersey train station, raided an apartment nearby, issued a wanted poster and began to link the blast with other bombs.

The intense manhunt came to a swift conclusion after Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar, Mayor Derek Armstead said. Rahami shot the officer – who was wearing a protective vest -- in the abdomen, Armstead said.

Rahami then began shooting “indiscriminately” along Elizabeth Avenue, the police said, and another officer was injured in the hand. More officers joined the gun battle and brought Rahami down, police Capt. James Sarnicki said.

"This is someone who was likely involved in one way or another" with the explosion Saturday in the Chelsea neighborhood that wounded 29 people, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN's New Day.

The FBI wanted poster, issued hours before the arrest, warned that Rahami "should be considered armed and dangerous."

Rahami's last known address was listed in nearby neighboring Elizabeth, and federal authorities conducted a raid there Monday at an apartment above a fried chicken restaurant operated by Rahami's father.

Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said a traffic stop conducted by FBI agents in New York City led to the search warrant in Elizabeth.

The search of Rahami’s home did not immediately reveal evidence that explosives had been assembled there, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said investigators were searching for other possible locations that the suspect may have used.

Officials were scouring Rahami’s communications to determine whether others may have assisted in the alleged planning, construction and the selection of targets.

Five people were questioned at length overnight and early Monday, but the official said none of them had been charged. And it did not appear that the five, described as people familiar with the suspect, would be detained further after questioning was completed.

The explosion in Chelsea rocked the neighborhood and blew windows out of buildings. An unexploded pressure-cooker device was also found four blocks away and was being analyzed by the FBI. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the bombs had some similarities but provided no other details.

Hours before the Chelsea blast, a pipe bomb exploded in a Seaside Park, N.J., trash can before a 5k charity run that was to benefit Marines and sailors. No one was injured but the race was canceled. New Jersey State Police posted a notice on Facebook saying Rahami was wanted for questioning in that blast.

On Monday, a device found in a backpack near the Elizabeth train station exploded while a bomb squad robot was trying to disarm it, authorities said.

Bollwage said  the devices were found in a bag in a trash can by two men who reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package. There were no timers or cell phones found with the bombs, Bollwage said, prompting investigators to believe they had been discarded quickly.

“The speculation is that someone was disposing of evidence because law enforcement, we believe, was getting close,” he said.

Bollwage said investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses and parts of the bombs were sent to Quantico, Va., for analysis.

Rahami was positively identified, the official said, from a fingerprint allegedly left on the unexploded pressure-cooker device found in New York. The fingerprint, along with surveillance video featuring the suspect at both locations, launched authorities on the fast-moving investigation ending in Rahami’s arrest before noon Monday.

Officials in Elizabeth in the past have had problems with the chicken restaurant, Bollwage said. The complaints prompted the City Council several years ago to adopt an ordinance requiring the chicken restaurant to close at 10 p.m., Bollwage said.

"It was open all hours of the night,'' generating a multitude of noise complaints, he said. The ordinance applied specifically to that particular restaurant, not all eateries in the city, he said. The owners later sued the city to have the measure overturned, but they lost the case, the mayor said.

The bomb emergencies caused massive delays for NJ Transit services and Amtrak trains, affecting thousands of passengers. Amtrak schedules returned to normal Monday morning while some NJ Transit trains reported delays into the day due to the continued police activity in Elizabeth.

Mayor de Blasio said people will see "a very substantial NYPD presence this week — bigger than ever."

The heightened alert comes as world leaders are gathering Monday for the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama is expected to attend the annual meeting Tuesday, the last of his eight-year tenure.

Wyrich reports for The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record; Johnson and Bacon report for USA TODAY. Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara, Kevin Johnson.

(2016 © USA TODAY)


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