New York bombing suspect arrested after shootout

Suspect arrested hours after he was identified as Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, an Afghan-born US citizen living in New Jersey.

Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey on September 19, 2016. Moshe Weiss via AP
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LINDEN, NEW JERSY // An Afghan-born American suspect in weekend bombings in New York and neighbouring New Jersey was captured on Monday after a gun battle with police.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was arrested in the New Jersey town of Linden just hours after police issued a bulletin and photo of him.

Linden mayor Derek Armstead said the owner of a bar reported someone asleep in his doorway on Monday morning and the police officer who went to investigate recognised the man as Mr Rahami.

He 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 before he was Mr Rahami was shot and captured.

He appeared conscious, his upper right arm bandaged and bloodied, as he was loaded into an ambulance. He underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg. Two officers wounded in the shootout were not believed to be seriously hurt.

Police have not said how they identified Mr Rahami as suspect in the bombings but were known to be poring over surveillance video and examining bomb fragments and components for evidence.

A naturalized US citizen from Afghanistan, Mr Rahami lived with his family in an apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey, over a fried-chicken restaurant owned by his father.

Hi arrest came less than 36 hours after a shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bomb similar to those used in the Boston Marathon bombing injured 29 people in New York’s Chelsea section, none seriously, on Saturday night. Another pressure cooker bomb was found blocks away and defused.

“We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said after Mr Rahami’s arrest.

On Saturday morning, a pipe bomb exploded in town of Seaside Park in New Jersey. The bomb was placed along the route of a charity race but no one was injured as the start of the race had been delayed.

On Sunday, five explosive devices were discovered in a rubbish bin at a train station in the nearby town of Elizabeth.

Citing the FBI, New Jersey state police said on Monday that the bombs in Chelsea and Seaside Park were connected.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said investigators found there were “certain commonalities among the bombs”, leading authorities to believe “that there was a common group behind the bombs”.

A law enforcement official said investigators regard Mr Rahami as the “main guy” in the two explosions but plan to look into whether any others had a role. He said Mr Rahami was not believed to be on federal terror watch lists.

Before Mr Rahami’s capture, Mr Cuomo said investigators have no reason to believe there were further threats, but the public should “be on constant guard”.

FBI agents raided Mr Rahami’s apartment above the fried chicken shop in Elizabeth early on Monday. The town’s mayor, Christian Bollwage, said Mr Rahami’s father, Mohammad, and two of his brothers sued the city in 2011 after it passed an ordinance requiring the First American Fried Chicken restaurant to close early because of complaints from neighbors that it was a late-night nuisance.

The Rahamis charged in the lawsuit that they were targeted by neighbours because they are Muslims. The lawsuit was terminated in 2012 after Mohammad Rahami pleaded guilty to blocking police from enforcing the restrictions on the restaurant.

Elizabeth resident Ryan McCann said he often ate at the restaurant and had recently begun seeing the younger Rahami working there more.

“He’s always in there. He’s a very friendly guy, that’s what’s so scary. It’s hard when it’s home.”

* Associated Press