Bombing suspect's father contacted FBI about son's activities in 2014: official

A law enforcement official says the father of the man suspected in bombings in New York City and New Jersey had contacted the FBI following a 2014 stabbing to express concerns that his son was a terrorist.

Mohammad Rahami later said his son wasn't a terrorist but hung out with the wrong crowd

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, is shown in Union County, N.J., in this photo released Monday. Police are trying to connect him to all the devices planted in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend. (Courtesy Union County Prosecutor's Office/Handout)

A law enforcement official says the father of the man suspected in bombings in New York City and New Jersey had contacted the FBI following a 2014 stabbing to express concerns that his son was a terrorist.

The official, who spoke to AP but insisted on anonymity, said the FBI looked into the matter, but Mohammad Rahami later retracted his comment and said he meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, including gangs.

Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested for stabbing a person in the leg and possession of a firearm in 2014. But a grand jury declined to indict him, despite a warning from the arresting officer that Rahami was likely "a danger to himself or others."

Mohammad Rahami told reporters outside his chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J., on Tuesday morning that he called law enforcement twice. 

 But asked whether he thought his son was a terrorist, the father said: "No. And the FBI, they know that."

A wealth of clues

Earlier Monday, investigators said Rahami provided them with a wealth of clues that led to his arrest about 50 hours after the first explosion, according to three law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.

His fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene of the Manhattan bombing, they said. His uncovered face was clearly captured by surveillance cameras near the spot of the blast.

Electronic toll records show a car that he had access to was driven from New Jersey to Manhattan and back to New Jersey the day of the bombing, according to the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss an ongoing case.

Those and other clues spurred officials to publicize his name and photo Monday morning, asking for help in finding Rahami, 28, a Muslim U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, who lives with his family in Elizabeth.

As the investigation heated up, a bar owner in Linden, N.J., reported someone asleep in his doorway. An officer went to investigate and recognized the man as Rahami, police and the mayor said.

Ahmad Khan Rahami had surgery on his leg after he was injured during the shootout with police that ended with his arrest. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald via Associated Press)

Rahami pulled a gun and shot the officer — who was wearing a bulletproof vest — in the torso, and more officers joined in a running gun battle along the street and brought Rahami down, police Capt. James Sarnicki said. Another police officer was grazed by a bullet.

'Good, old-fashioned police work too'

"A lot of technology involved in this, but a lot of good, old-fashioned police work, too," said New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill. He said now, investigators would "make sure that we get to the bottom of who's involved and why."

After surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg, Rahami was being held on $5.2 million US bail, charged with five counts of attempted murder of police officers. Federal prosecutors said they still were weighing charges over the bombings. Rahami remains hospitalized.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the explosions are being investigated "as an act of terror." 

Messages left for family members were not immediately returned. It wasn't clear when Rahami would get a lawyer.

Officials said they have no other suspects at large, but cautioned they are still investigating.

William Sweeney Jr., the FBI's assistant director in New York, said there was no indication so far that the bombings were the work of a larger terror cell.

Rahami wasn't on any terror or no-fly watch lists, though he had been interviewed for immigration purposes travelling between the U.S. and Afghanistan, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rahami and his family live above their restaurant — First American Fried Chicken — and the family has clashed with the city over closing times and noise complaints, which the Rahamis said in a lawsuit were tinged with anti-Muslim sentiment.

Law enforcement officers are shown in front of First American Fried Chicken, the Elizabeth, N.J., eatery run by Rahami's family. To some residents, it has served as a refuge, and to others, it has been a nuisance due to noise. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The lawsuit was terminated in 2012 because one of Rahami's brothers had pleaded guilty to blocking police from enforcing closing hours at the restaurant.

A childhood friend, Flee Jones, said Rahami had become more religious after returning from a trip to Afghanistan several years ago. Still, some of the family restaurant's customers said Rahami was more likely to talk about his interest in cars than to mention faith.

"He's a very friendly guy," patron Ryan McCann said. "That's what's so scary."

Multiple explosions

The investigation began when a pipe bomb blew up Saturday morning in Seaside Park, N.J., before a charity race to benefit marines. No one was injured.

Then, a shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bomb exploded Saturday night in New York's Chelsea section, wounding 31 people, none seriously. An unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found blocks away.

Late Sunday night, five explosive devices were discovered in a trash can at an Elizabeth train station, about five kilometres from where Rahami was later found asleep in the doorway of a bar.

Investigators are still gathering evidence and have not publicly tied Rahami to those devices, though Sweeney noted they aren't "ruling anything out."

The bombs discovered Saturday all used flip cellphones as a trigger and were all made with easily purchasable materials, a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said.

After zeroing in on Rahami and learning of the car that had travelled between New Jersey and New York, authorities pulled it over Sunday night after it headed in the direction of Kennedy airport. The law enforcement officials said at least one of Rahami's relatives was in the car.

All five were questioned and released, Sweeney said. He declined to say whether they might later face charges.