The father of Ahmad Rahami, the suspected bomber in a series of explosions in New York City and New Jersey Saturday, says he had "no idea" his son was involved in any alleged terror plan.
Mohammad Rahami, who owns the fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that was raided by FBI and other officials as law enforcement escalated their manhunt for the suspect, had little else to say about his son's arrest.
Asked by NBC News if he knew his son was allegedly involved in bomb-making, Mohammad Rahami said, "No. No idea."
Federal investigators interviewed Mohammad Rahami in 2014 after a neighbor heard the father scream, "You are a terrorist!" at his son, who had just allegedly punched his sister and stabbed his brother in the leg during a fight, senior law enforcement officials tell NBC News. The neighbor called police, and police told counter-terrorism officials, who questioned the father and relatives.
The father said he had made the comment out of anger and denied feeling as if his son were a terrorist or in any way radicalized, the officials told NBC News. Mohammad Rahami admitted his son was hanging out with a bad crowd, but described his friends as drinkers and thugs, the officials told NBC News. The FBI interviewed Rahami again later and the father reiterated his statements. The FBI conducted additional interviews and found no indication of terrorism.
Ahmad Rahami spent three months in jail after the domestic dispute, but a grand jury declined to indict him and the matter was dropped.
Meanwhile, authorities are looking to question Ahmad Rahami's wife, who was out of the country at the time of the bombings. A senior law enforcement official says investigators do not consider her travel suspicious.
Ahmad Rahami, a 28-year-old native of Afghanistan, was taken into custody Monday after a shootout on the street with police officers in Linden, New Jersey. Two officers were shot in the chaos, but are expected to make full recoveries. One left the hospital Monday night; the other was released Tuesday. Rahami, who was also wounded and remains hospitalized, has been charged with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Federal prosecutors have filed charges against Rahami in the bombings and bombing attempts, including using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing public places, according to a criminal complaint unsealed at a federal court in Manhattan Tuesday.
He's also facing five counts of attempted murder in the police shootout, as well as second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Monday evening. Bail for Rahami in the Linden shootout was set at $5.2 million. It wasn't clear if he'd retained an attorney as of Monday night.
Authorities had been looking for Rahami in connection with bombings that rocked a crowded Manhattan neighborhood and a Jersey shore town over the weekend. A senior law enforcement official says a fingerprint collected from an unexploded device led investigators to Rahami as a suspect in the bombings at the Marine 5K race and the blast in Chelsea.
Investigators said Tuesday Rahami was also linked to a cluster of pipe bombs found at a commuter rail station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, late Sunday, not far from where the suspect was later captured. A robot trying to disarm one of the bombs inadvertently detonated it, but no one was hurt.
The blast in Chelsea injured more than 30 people, though all have since been released from the hospital. The explosion left twisted metal and shrapnel scattered across 23rd Street. An unexploded pressure cooker with a cellphone attached and wires protruding was found four blocks away; it was taken to a firing range, where it was safely detonated. Mayor de Blasio was set to visit the scene Tuesday as the neighborhood worked to return to normal.
The discovery of the Manhattan devices came hours after a pipe bomb exploded in a trash bin at the Marine 5K in Seaside Park. Authorities had said they believed the device had been timed to go off as participants were running by, but the race had been late. It was canceled and no one was hurt.
Old-fashioned flip phones were found on the devices in Manhattan and in Seaside Park, law enforcement officials close to the investigation told NBC 4 New York. All of the phones were purchased at the same New Jersey discount store — and were made with commonly available materials that can be bought without raising law-enforcement suspicions, authorities say.
After hedging on any potential terror angle over the weekend, Mayor de Blasio said at a news briefing Monday that there is "every reason to believe" the bombings in the city and in New Jersey were "an act of terror."
Authorities said, though, that there was no indication of a terror cell in the area, and officials believe the suspect acted alone.