So much for lone wolves. The FBI has detained five people in two bombings this weekend and have announced that they want at least one more. Ahmad Khan Rahami has become a person of interest in at least the New York City bombing — an “extremely dangerous” person:
— J. Peter Donald (@JPeterDonald) September 19, 2016
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, is being sought in connection to the blast that injured 29 people in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, the New York City Police Department said early Monday.
CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reports that investigators believe Rahami may be part of a terror cell and consider him extremely dangerous.
The Associated Press reports that Rahami is “a naturalized citizen from Afghanistan,” and apparently resides in Elizabeth, New Jersey. That’s where the first bomb exploded, so that doesn’t seem like a coincidence, but he’s wanted for questioning about the Chelsea bomb in New York. Discovering the planted/discarded bombs in Elizabeth will almost certainly provide some significant evidence, and will determine whether it’s a coincidence or not.
The tie to Afghanistan is interesting, too. It’s too early for speculation about specific overseas ties, but it’s worth noting that most of the “lone wolf” attackers have had ties to Syria, Iraq, or east Africa. However, the Orlando terrorist who killed 49 people had links to Afghanistan through his father, a fringe activist who wanted to run for president there.
One interesting aspect of these bombings is that no group has claimed responsibility for them. ISIS didn’t hesitate to take credit for the stabbings in Minnesota at a shopping mall in St. Cloud, where the terrorist died when an off-duty police officer brought a gun to the knife fight. So far, no group has taken responsibility for the New York/New Jersey attacks. That might be significant, Reuters reports:
“The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn’t point to any group that’s been developing (improvised explosive devices) for years,” said a U.S. official involved in the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the inquiry.
The official added that the crude nature of the devices and the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned that the blasts were just a test of New York’s security.
“That’s what worries us: Was this some kind of test run, not just of the devices, but also of the surveillance in New York and the response?” the official said.
If so, then the terrorists may have bitten off more than they could chew.
Update: Reuters’ Derek Caney reports that two sources within the investigation think more people than Rahami are involved in this plot. We’ll see if they update their BOLOs. By the way, Rahami is described as 5’6″ and 200 pounds, so he should be relatively easy to spot.