New York

Who Is Ahmad Khan Rahami? What We Know

This is what we know about the suspect in the NJ and NY bombings

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in the bombings in New York City and a shore town in New Jersey, immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan and lives in New Jersey, where his father owns a fried chicken restaurant.

Rahami was wounded during a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, Monday after he was found sleeping in the doorway of a bar, according to authorities. Two police officers were shot, but both have been released from the hospital. Rahami was taken into custody and, Monday evening, charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law-enforcement official in Union County. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed charges in the New York and New Jersey bombings and bombing attempts. 

Rahami, 28, is a U.S. citizen whose family opened First American Fried Chicken in 2002 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The restaurant was searched by authorities Monday. The family came to the United States in 1995 as asylum seekers. 

Rahami lives with his family above the restaurant, according to The Associated Press.

"He's a very friendly guy, that's what's so scary," Ryan McCann of Elizabeth told the AP.

They called it a “war zone” and something out of “the movies.” Witnesses describing the dramatic scene as police closed in on suspect Ahmad Rahami in Linden this morning. Sarah Wallace reports.

Travel to Pakistan, Middle East

A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News on Monday that Rahami, who was born on Jan. 23, 1988 in Afghanistan, made several trips to Pakistan and visited Afghanistan in 2013. The Afghan Taliban distanced themselves from Rahami, telling NBC they knew nothing of him. 

He was not on a U.S. terrorist watch list nor on one maintained by the New York Police Department, senior officials told NBC News.

Previous FBI Investigation

The FBI looked into Rahami two years ago after his father called his son a "terrorist" following a domestic dispute involving Rahami's sister and brother, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. A neighbor overheard and called police, prompting an FBI probe, law enforcement officials said. The father walked back the statement, telling FBI investigators he just meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, the officials said. He reiterated as much in a later FBI interview. 

The FBI checked its databases, interviewed other relatives and found nothing connecting Rahami to terror groups, three law enforcement officials said. The case was closed in a matter of weeks. 

Rahami was not interviewed at the time because he was jailed in connection with the domestic dispute. A grand jury declined to indict him and the matter was dropped.

Grainy surveillance video captures bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami running from police as a gun battle erupted on a street in Linden, New Jersey, Monday.

High School and College

Friends and former classmates told NBC News that Rahami was a "cool dude" in high school with the nickname Bo. He liked to have fun and served as a father figure to his younger siblings. 

"I played lacrosse with him until he was kicked off the team for being late all the time," said one former classmate, who didn't want his name made public. "He definitely didn't seem like the kind of guy you would think would do something like this."

Rahami was a criminal justice major at Middlesex Community College from 2010 to 2012 but did not graduate, a college spokesman said. The school said there was nothing concerning in his file.

Ahmad Rahami, the naturalized 28-year-old native of Afghanistan hunted in connection with a series of bombings in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend, was taken into custody after a gun battle with police that left two officers injured, four law enforcement sources and other officials said.

Wives, Girlfriends and Kids

Rahami has a wife, Aziza, who is not in the United States. Rep. Albio Sires, who represents Elizabeth in Congress, told NBC that Aziza Rahami had previously sought a visa to entire the United States via Pakistan, but was denied because her passport was expired.

Rahami also has a child with a former high school classmate, Maria Mena. She went to court Tuesday seeking a restraining order against him as well as full custody of their child.

Mena told the court she has not spoken to Rahami since January. Court records show that as of last year, he owed thousands of dollars in child support. 

Rahami Family's Lawsuit

Five years ago, Mohammed Rahami and two relatives claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court that they were harassed by city officials over the restaurant's hours of operation. Neighbors had complained that the restaurant was a late-night nuisance.

They accused the city of targeting them because they were Muslim, according to the the civil rights complaint.

[NATL-NY] Bombs in New Jersey, New York Spark Manhunt

The restaurant had an exemption to stay open past 10 p.m., but police repeatedly tried to close it early, according to the lawsuit. During one confrontation with police, one of Ahmad Rahami's older brothers was arrested after a fight with an officer, and later fled to Afghanistan, The New York Times reported.

One man, James Dean McDermott, told the family, "Muslims make too much trouble in this country," according to the complaint.

McDermott, a freelance television cameraman, denied the accusation, telling NBC News, "it never happened." He said his dispute with the Rahamis was over the restaurant's hours and not their religion.

Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage told The AP that Rahami's father and two brothers sued after the city passed an ordinance requiring it to close early. 

The owner of a neighboring business described the family as "very secluded" and said the children usually worked behind the counter.

Rahami's father told NBC News in a brief interview Monday that he had no idea his son was plotting an attack.

For more coverage of the New Jersey and New York bombings, click here.

Jose Vazquez, 66, trembled as he recounted being helped by stranger. Erica Byfield reports.
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