Naturalized Afghanistan Citizen Sought in Manhattan Blast

NEW YORK (AP/Reuters) -
New York City firefighters stand near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Rashid Umar Abbasi TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
New York City firefighters stand near the site of an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Sept. 17. (Reuters/Rashid Umar Abbasi)

The New York Police Department said Monday that it was looking for a naturalized Afghanistan citizen for questioning in a weekend explosion in a Manhattan neighborhood that injured 29 people.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami could be armed and dangerous.

“We need to get this guy in right away,” de Blasio said on CNN. “My experience is once the FBI zeroes in on someone, they will get them.”

Federal authorities now believe the explosion in Chelsea, where another explosive device was found nearby, was linked to as many as six explosive devices found in Elizabeth, Homeland Security officials told Reuters.

The explosions came days before world leaders prepared to gather at the United Nations in New York for the annual General Assembly.

“We’re going to have more security personnel than ever assembled over this next week during the U.N. General Assembly,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on CNN.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in media interviews that President Barack Obama, who is already in New York, was being briefed on the case.

Cuomo acknowledged there might be an international connection in the case.

“The evidence might suggest a foreign connection,” Cuomo said in media interviews on Monday morning.

Investigators believe there are more people involved in the New York and New Jersey bombing plots than just Rahami, but they do not have a good idea who those people are, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

 

This undated photo provided by the FBI shows Ahmad Khan Rahami. The New York Police Department said it is looking for Rahami for questioning in the New York City explosion that happened Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (FBI via AP)
This undated photo provided by the FBI shows Ahmad Khan Rahami. (FBI via AP)

On Sunday night, FBI agents in Brooklyn stopped “a vehicle of interest” in the investigation of the Manhattan explosion, according to FBI spokeswoman Kelly Langmesser.

She wouldn’t provide further details, but a government official and a law enforcement official who were briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press that five people in the car were being questioned at an FBI building in Manhattan.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the ongoing investigation.

No one has been charged with any crime, and the investigation is continuing, Langmesser said.

On Sunday, a federal law enforcement official said the Chelsea bomb contained a residue of Tannerite, an explosive often used for target practice that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores. The discovery of Tannerite may be important as authorities probe whether the two New York City devices and the pipe bomb at the Jersey shore are connected.

Cell phones were discovered at the site of both bombings, but no Tannerite residue was identified in the New Jersey bomb remnants, in which a black powder was detected, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to comment on an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The pipe bomb exploded Saturday in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. The race was canceled and no one was injured.

Late Sunday, five suspicious devices were found near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said the devices were found in a bag in a trash can by two men who reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package. One of the devices exploded as a bomb squad used a robot to try to disarm it. No injuries were reported.

There was no immediate word on whether the devices were similar to those in nearby Seaside Park or New York City.

Officials haven’t revealed any details about the makeup of the pressure cooker device, except to say it had wires and a cell phone attached to it. On Sunday night, police blew up the device, rendering it safe. A forensic examination of the device will be sent to the FBI Laboratory at Quantico, Virginia, police said.

Homemade pressure cooker bombs were used in the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 that killed three people and injured more than 260.

On Sunday, a team of five FBI agents searched an Uber driver’s vehicle that had been damaged in the Manhattan blast. The driver had just picked up three passengers and was driving when the explosion occurred, shattering the car’s windows and leaving gaping holes in the rear passenger-side door.

The Chelsea explosion left many rattled in a city that had marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks only a week earlier and that was scheduled to hold a United Nations meeting Monday to address the refugee crisis in Syria.