Wealth of clues led to arrest of suspected bomber

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NEW YORK — The man suspected of planting bombs in a New York neighborhood and a New Jersey seaside town may have aimed to inflict carnage incognito, but he didn’t succeed for long in concealing his identity.

Ahmad Khan Rahami provided investigators with a wealth of clues that led to his arrest about 50 hours after the first explosion, according to three law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.

His fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene of the Manhattan bombing, they said. His uncovered face was clearly captured by surveillance cameras near the spot of the blast.

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Electronic toll records show a car to which he had access was driven from New Jersey to Manhattan and back to New Jersey the day of the bombing, according to the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss an ongoing case.

Those and other clues spurred officials to publicize his name and photo Monday morning, asking for help finding Rahami, 28, a Muslim U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, who lives with his family in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

As the investigation heated up, a bar owner in Linden, New Jersey, reported someone asleep in his doorway. An officer went to investigate and recognized the man as Rahami, police and the mayor said.

Rahami pulled a gun and shot the officer — who was wearing a bulletproof vest — in the torso, and more officers joined in a running gun battle along the street and brought Rahami down, police Capt. James Sarnicki said. Another police officer was grazed by a bullet.

“A lot of technology involved in this, but a lot of good, old-fashioned police work, too,” said New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill. He said now, investigators would “make sure that we get to the bottom of who’s involved and why.”

After surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg, Rahami was being held on $5.2 million bail, charged with five counts of attempted murder of police officers. Federal prosecutors said they still were weighing charges over the bombings. Rahami remains hospitalized.

Messages left for family members were not immediately returned. It wasn’t clear when Rahami would get an attorney.

Officials said they have no other suspects at large, but cautioned they are still investigating.

The bombing spread fear across the New York area and revived anxiety about homegrown terrorism nationwide.

As the East Coast was rattled by the bombings, a man who authorities say referred to Allah wounded nine people in a stabbing rampage at a Minnesota mall Saturday before being shot to death by an off-duty police officer. Authorities are investigating the stabbings as a possible terrorist attack but have not drawn any connection between the bloodshed there and the bombings.