chelsea bombing
September 22, 2016

The man accused of injuring over two dozen people in a New York City bombing and placing multiple other explosive devices at sites in New York and New Jersey last weekend was on the FBI's radar, although multiple suspicions failed to compel them to bring him in for an interview, The New York Times reports.

Returning from almost a year in Pakistan in March 2014, customs officials flagged Ahmad Khan Rahami for a secondary screening and notified the National Targeting Center, which assesses possible threats, of his arrival. Still, nothing came of it at the time. Then just five months later, Rahami's father told the police he was worried his son "was a terrorist," but later retracted the comment, with a Joint Terrorism Task Force official explaining "the father made the comment out of anger at his son." Still, despite having been flagged twice in less than six months for a closer look, federal agents did not interview Rahami.

An Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, Rahami, 28, is suspected of having been radicalized abroad; a notebook found on his person at the time of his arrest is filled with Islamic State-influenced writings. Investigators are also looking at a three-week trip he took to Afghanistan, and another he is believed to have taken to Ankara, Turkey, in January 2014.

Rahami has been charged with "attempted murder" and "use of weapons of mass destruction," among other charges. Jeva Lange

September 21, 2016

The homemade bombs built by Ahmad Khan Rahami and placed in locations across New York and New Jersey over the weekend were constructed using materials he purchased on eBay, Vice reports. Rahami now faces charges for "bombing a place of public use" and "attempted murder," as well as a charge for the "use of weapons of mass destruction."

Rahami began collecting the odds and ends for such weapons in June, FBI special agent Peter Licata said:

[Rahami's] shopping list allegedly included electronic circuit boards and "electric igniters" intended to be used "for fireworks," as well as 200 "hardened lead milling balls" and two packages of .50 caliber "sling shot ammo." Those items, Licata wrote, were used as detonators and shrapnel in the pressure cooker bombs that Rahami placed in Chelsea.

On Aug. 10, Rahami purchased five pounds of citric acid from eBay. The listing for the item described it as "great for bath bombs and candy making." In addition to its many benign uses, Licata noted that citric acid is a "precursor chemical commonly used in improvised explosives." It can be used to make the explosive compound HMTD, which was reportedly found inside a second pressure cooker bomb in Chelsea that failed to detonate.

When buying the ingredients for his weapons, Rahami apparently intentionally misspelled his name as "Rahimi." The FBI says they have cell phone video of him testing a weapon on Sept. 15 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

It was a success. There was "loud noise and flames," the FBI documents say, "followed by billowing smoke and laughter." Jeva Lange

September 19, 2016

The hunt is on for Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man allegedly responsible for at least three homemade bombs placed in New York and New Jersey over the weekend. Only one of those bombs, in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, actually detonated, though — and pedestrians have thieves to thank for potentially saving many lives.

On Sunday night, two thieves stole a backpack sitting on top of a trash can at a commuter train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. When the pair opened the bag to see their loot, they were stunned to find five explosives inside. The thieves dropped the bag in the middle of the street and ran to call police.

It wasn't even the first time thieves thwarted the bomber's schemes. On Saturday, before the bomb detonated on West 23rd Street in Chelsea, two thieves disabled a pressure cooker in a suitcase on West 27th Street — likely completely on accident:

The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase.

In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. That allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the bomb intact and discover that it was connected to the family of Rahami. [DNAInfo]

"Who in this world finds a pressure cooker with a phone and just takes the bag?" a law enforcement source marveled to DNAInfo. Regardless, whoever you are — thank you. Jeva Lange

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