Ahmad Khan Rahami, the New Jersey man suspected of planting bombs in the New York area over the weekend, was investigated by the FBI in 2014 after his father called him a terrorist, federal law enforcement officials told USA TODAY on Tuesday.
The reference came during a domestic dispute, prompting the FBI to review the father’s claims, said the officials, who aren’t authorized to comment publicly. The matter was closed when authorities found nothing to support any terrorist ties involving Rahami, who had been arrested related to the suspected domestic assault, the officials said.
More details about Rahami also continued to emerge Tuesday, painting a contrasting and complex portrait of the suspect. Some friends said he was funny and friendly. But others saw dramatic changes in Rahami after he made trips to south Asia, saying he became more religious and started to dress conservatively.
Authorities also continued to probe Tuesday to see whether Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan, acted alone or had any help. Investigators are seeking to question Rahami’s wife, who recently left the country to visit relatives in Pakistan.
Rahami was wounded, taken into custody and charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after a shootout with police in Linden, N.J, on Monday.
One of the blasts he was sought over injured 29 people in the Chelsea area of Manhattan on Saturday night.
Hours before that explosion, a pipe bomb detonated in a trash can in Seaside Park, N.J., before a 5K charity run. No one was injured.
On Monday, authorities said a device found in a backpack near the Elizabeth train station in New Jersey exploded while a bomb squad robot was trying to disarm it.
Here’s what we know about Rahami:
He’s a naturalized citizen living in New Jersey
Rahami, 28, first came to the U.S. in January 1995, some years after his father, Mohammed Rahami, sought asylum here, CNN reported. He later became a naturalized U.S. citizen whose last known address was in Elizabeth, N.J.
He attended Middlesex County College in Edison, N.J. between 2010 and 2012 and majored in criminal justice but did not graduate, according to media reports.
His father ran a fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth since 2002, and Rahami had worked there, customers said.
Things changed when he ‘got more religious,’ friend says
Rahami made numerous trips to Afghanistan and was questioned each time he returned to the United States, CNN reported, citing law enforcement sources. A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that Rahami wasn’t on any terror or no-fly watch lists but had been interviewed by officials for immigration purposes.
He spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and in Quetta, Pakistan in 2011. Quetta is a Taliban stronghold where he married a Pakistani woman, according to CNN.
Flee Jones, 27, who said he’d known Rahami since they were teenagers, said Rahami “got more religious” and dressed differently after a trip to Afghanistan several years ago, the AP reported.
Rahami contacted N.J. Rep. Albio Sires’ office from Islamabad in Pakistan in 2014, CNN said. He said he was concerned about his wife’s passport and visa and it transpired that her Pakistani passport had expired. Sires said when her passport was renewed, Rahami’s wife found out she was pregnant and was told she could not get a visa until she had the baby and that the baby also needed a visa, according to CNN.
Rahami’s wife left the U.S. a few days before the Manhattan and New Jersey bombings, CNN reported, citing a law enforcement official.
He’s the only suspect so far
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Rahami was the sole suspect so far. “We have reason to believe this was an act of terror,” he said of the bombing investigation. FBI Special Agent William Sweeney said there was no indication that Rahami was part of a terror cell.
Officials are working to determine whether other people may have assisted in the alleged planning, construction and the selection of targets. Five people were questioned at length, but none have been charged.