USA TODAY - Ahmad Khan Rahami, the lone suspect in the weekend bombing campaign in New York and New Jersey who allegedly offered praise for al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, was formally charged late Tuesday with four federal counts, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. The charges were lodged in both New York and New Jersey federal courts.
The charges assert that the 28-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, intended to “cause death and serious bodily injury’’ when he planted devices at four locations across New Jersey and New York, including the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan where one of the powerful bombs detonated Saturday night, injuring 31 people.
A journal seized from Rahami during his arrest, following a dramatic shootout with Linden, N.J., police, contained both support for the al-Qaeda leaders and a chilling closing declaration: “Inshallah (God willing), the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to Your OPRESSION.’’
The Chelsea explosion, prosecutors charge, left a wide swath of wreckage across a 650-foot crime scene and in addition to the injuries, caused damages in excess of “multiple millions of dollars.’’
“The blast shattered windows as far as approximately 400 feet from the detonation site and, vertically, more than three stories high,’’ according to court documents.
Prosecutors asserted that the pressure-cooker device was “packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, hundreds of which were recovered from the blast site.’’
At two of the four sites where explosives were found or detonated, prosecutors asserted that fingerprints matching Rahami were recovered by investigators, including from an unexploded pressure-cooker device located just a few blocks from the Chelsea neighborhood blast.
“Approximately 12 fingerprints’’ were recovered from the unexploded pressure cooker, according to court documents, with some lifted from duct tape and a cell phone triggering device.
Prosecutors allege that Rahami was captured on closed circuit surveillance cameras at the Chelsea location 37 minutes before the bomb detonated. Two minutes after the blast, surveillance cameras allegedly place him on West 27 Street, where the second, un-exploded New York device was later located.
Rahami, according to court papers, began ordering bomb components on eBay, beginning in June and continuing through August when he allegedly purchased citric acid, a chemical commonly used in improvised explosive devices. In a statement released late Tuesday, eBay said it has been cooperating with the federal inquiry.
When he was finally arrested Monday, the court documents state that investigators recovered the “journal’’ which lauded the now dead al-Qaeda leaders, Bin Laden and Al-Awlaki, along with the gunman who carried out the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood Texas.
“You continue your slaught(er) against the mujahidean be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria), Palestine,’’ the handwritten journal allegedly states. “The FBI, homeland security looking for me… My heart I pray to the beautiful wise Allah. To not take Jihad away... I beg for shahadat (martyrdom) & Inshallah (God willing) this call will be answered.’’
According to the court documents, investigators also recovered video from the cell phone of an unidentified family member which allegedly shows Rahami “igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container.
The video, prosecutors alleged was recorded two days before Saturday’s Chelsea bombing.
“The video depicts Rahami in a backyard (near his Elizabeth home),’’ the court documents state. “Partially buried in the ground is a small, black cylindrical object. A fuse is lit and object ignites… followed by billowing smoke and laughter.’’
The federal charges come after New Jersey authorities lodged five counts of attempted murder against Rahami related to the gun battle that left two officers wounded. Rahami also is recovering from multiple gunshot wounds at a New Jersey hospital, but his injuries and not considered life threatening.
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