Federal authorities think they've identified the men seen on camera taking luggage allegedly planted on a Manhattan sidewalk by a man accused of terror and other charges in connection with explosions in New York and New Jersey earlier this month, senior law enforcement officials told NBC 4 New York.
The officials said the two men seen in the video taking the bag — but leaving behind the pressure cooker bomb that was inside — from West 27th Street on Sept. 17 are believed to be airline employees and are now likely overseas.
One senior official familiar with the investigation said they are thought to be employees who worked as part of a flight crew for an Egyptian airline. They were identified from a security camera at the hotel where they were staying.
The men have never been considered suspects; authorities have said they wanted to recover the luggage to assist in their investigation. Officials say the the FBI believes it knows where the men are and is trying to reach them.
The FBI's New York office released a photo of the two men on Sept. 21, four days after the bombing.
"They are witnesses, we are very interested in talking to them and hearing about how they found the bag," Jim Waters, head of the NYPD's counterterrorism bureau, said last week. "They found the bag, opened it, found the device -- a pressure cooker -- and took the bag. They are witnesses. There are no criminal charges. I want to stress that."
The pressure cooker bomb inside the suitcase was allegedly planted by Ahmad Rahami, a New Jersey resident who was charged with planting that device and one that exploded on 23rd Street, injuring 31 people, Sept. 17. He is also charged with planting the pipe bomb that exploded in a trash bin along a Marine 5K race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, hours earlier.
Waters said the men who removed the bomb from the bag were "very lucky" they weren't hurt. He said if the men weren't plugged into news coverage, it was possible they still didn't know they had taken the bag that held the bomb.