NY, NJ bombings: What we learned from the complaint against Rahami

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The complaint against Ahmad Khan Rahami — the suspect in the New York and New Jersey bombings has been released.

It provides a snapshot of the case being built against the 28-year-old, who was captured alive after a shoot-out with police Monday.

FBI Special Agent Peter Fredrick Licata’s affidavit includes a description of the impact of the West 23rd Street blast and details evidence he alleges points to Rahami’s culpability.

Here’s some of what we have learned:

Destruction from the West 23rd Street bomb

The bomb that detonated on West 23rd Street in the New York neighborhood of Chelsea was left in a dumpster weighing more than 100 pounds (45kg).

The blast propelled the dumpster more than 120 feet (36 meters) from the detonation site, shattering windows approximately 400 feet away and vertically more than three stories high.

Fragments were found approximately 650 feet away.

“In order to increase fragmentation, and thus likely to increase the lethality of the device…” the bomb had been packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, hundreds of which were recovered from the blast site, the complaint alleges.

At least one victim was knocked unconscious while driving in his car by the bomb site and another suffered a head injury when the blast hit the vehicle she was traveling in.

Cellphone timers?

From June 20 to August 10, registered eBay user “ahmad rahimi” purchased items associated with bomb making, the complaint alleges. They were shipped to a Perth Amboy, NJ, business where Rahami is believed to have worked until September 12.

A cellphone was found in the immediate area of the explosion in Seaside Park, New Jersey, which Special Agent Licata said likely functioned as a timer for the bomb detonated there.

Another cellphone found near the 23rd Street blast is believed to have also functioned as a timer, while a further phone found with the unexploded bomb on West 27th Street likely had the same planned purpose.

The first two phones were sold at a store 500 meters (1640 ft) from a residence named by Rahami as his home in a 2012 passport application.

The third phone — found with the West 27th Street device — was subscribed to the name of one of Rahami’s family members from 2010-2013.

The credit address was the same Perth Amboy address listed by Rahami as his home in 2012. The user address was in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a property that Rahami had identified as his residence in 2014.

Social media: ‘Violent Extremist Content’

The affidavit has a headline reading “Violent Extremist Content Associated with a Social Media Account Bearing Username Associated with Chelsea Telephone-2.”

In that section, Licata says an email account — “Yaafghankid786 ” — was listed with the West 27th Street phone account. The same username, at a different email service provider, was listed with the phone’s manufacturer.

Licata said there was also a social media account with the username “Yaafghankid78.”

The user of that account had listed favorite videos posted by other users, two of which related to jihad: “Jihad nasheed ya shahid” (jihad is a martyr’s anthem) and “best jihad nasheed” anthem.

Phone video: Igniting incendiary material

Special Agent Licata says that video recovered from a cellphone belonging to one of Rahami’s family members shows the bombing suspect igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container partially buried in the ground of a backyard.

“A fuse is lit and the object ignites; the Video depicts the lighting of the fuse, a loud noise and flames, followed by billowing smoke and laughter. RAHAMI then enters the frame and is seen picking up the cylindrical container,” Licata writes.

Geolocation information and data on the phone suggests it was filmed about two days before the Chelsea bombings at or close to the Elizabeth residence associated with Rahami.

Handwritten journal: Attacking non-believers

The affidavit says that Rahami was carrying a handwritten journal when he was taken into custody Monday.

It had lines including: “You (USA Government) continue your [unintelligible] slaught[er] against the mujahidean be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham [Syria], Palestine.”

The author also expressed concern at the prospect of being caught before being able to carry out a suicide attack.

A largely unintelligible page refers to “pipe bombs” and a “pressure cooker bomb” and contained the partial sentence: “in the streets they plan to run a mile.”

The journal also recalled looking for guidance on attacking non-believers where they live, according to the affidavit.

“I looked for guidance and . . Guidance came Sheikh Anwar Said it clearly attack the Kuffar [non-believers] in their backyard,” it quoted the journal as reading.

Licata notes that he believes “Sheikh Anwar” refers to Anwar al-Awlaki, formerly a senior leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based designated foreign terrorist organization.

There are also laudatory references to: Anwar al-A wlaki; Nidal Hasan, who shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas; and “Brother Osama Bin Laden.”

Licata says the document closes: “Inshallah [God willing] the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death To Your OPPRESSION.”

By Joshua Gaynor and Susannah Cullinane

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