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Ahmad Khan Rahami: Who is the Chelsea bombing suspect?

Ahmad Khan Rahami, seen in three different photographs, has been arrested in connection with two bombings, including one in Chelsea on Saturday. / New Jersey State Police

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the Chelsea and New Jersey bombings, is portrayed as a jihadist who praised Osama bin Laden in the federal complaint filed against him on Tuesday.

Rahami was charged with the use of weapons of mass destruction and bombing a public place, among others. He had previously been charged with attempted murder after the shootout with police officers that led to his arrested on Monday in Linden, New Jersey.

Here’s what we know about Rahami as more information unfolds.

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Who is he?

Rahami, 28, is a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan in 1988, according to the FBI. He came to the United State at age 7, and he lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where his father ran a fried chicken restaurant.

Rahami attended Edison High School in New Jersey, according to ABC News.

Described as a “class clown” by a high school classmate, he studied criminal justice before dropping out of community college.

More recently, he became active in the Muslim community of his racially diverse hometown. A friend said he visited his homeland a few years back.

Salaam Ismial, a social worker at the Masjid Al-Hadi mosque in Elizabeth, said he saw Rahami at a half-dozen events during the past year.

Several years ago, Rahami traveled to Afghanistan, according to Flee Jones, a childhood friend. The reason for the trip was not immediately known, but Jones said Rahami returned more serious and quiet. Jones said he learned about the travel from one of Rahami’s brothers and last saw Rahami about two years ago.

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“He was way more religious,” Jones said, adding, “I never knew him as the kind of person who would do anything like this.”

A neighbor in Elizabeth said Rahami had recently started dressing in more traditional clothes such as long tunics and sandals, which she said was how his father dressed.

"I always saw him outside talking on a cell phone, walking back and forth," said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "His brother was friendlier, you always saw him with friends. I never saw him with a group of friends."

What was the incident in 2014?

Rahami’s father, Mohammed Rahami, told reporters on Tuesday that he had called the FBI about his son two years ago. He said his son had stabbed his other son and hit his wife, but did not provide more details about the incident.

The FBI said in a statement that it carried out an assessment of Rahami following the incident. “The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism,” the FBI said.

A U.S. law enforcement official told Reuters that Mohammed Rahami told the FBI that he was worried his son was hanging out with people who might have connections to militants. But two weeks later, he contended his real concern was that the son was associating with criminals, the official said. Another law enforcement official said the father “recanted the whole story” about his son associating with terrorists.

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On Tuesday, Mohammed Rahami told reporters that his son is not a terrorist and that the FBI had cleared his son as a threat in 2014. Rahami did spend over three months in jail after the domestic dispute, according to the New York Times.

What is in his journal?

A handwritten journal was recovered during Rahami’s arrest on Monday, the complaint says. In the journal, Rahami had praised Osama bin Laden and expressed outrage at the United States’ “slaughter” of mujahedeen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine.

“Inshallah (God willing), the sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death to your oppression,” he wrote.

The journal also contained references to killing nonbelievers and mentioned American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a leading al-Qaida propagandist who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

There were also mentions of pipe bombs and pressure cooker bombs, the complaint says.

What evidence ties Rahami to the bombs?

Fingerprints

Rahami’s fingerprints were found on the bomb found on West 27th Street.

His fingerprints were also found on handwritten documents in a backpack that contained the bombs found on Sept. 18 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Video surveillance

Surveillance video of West 23rd Street in Chelsea, where the bomb went off, shows Rahami walking on the sidewalk about 40 minutes before the explosion, according to the criminal complaint. Another video of West 27th Street, shortly after the explosion on West 23rd Street, shows Rahami walk by with a suitcase and then walk back without it, the complaint says. The second device was found in a suitcase.

eBay purchases

Rahami made purchases on eBay that he would later use to build the bombs, the criminal complaint says. He used the username “ahmad rahami” and shipped the products to a business location in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where he worked until Sept. 12, 2016, according to the complaint. The products Rahami purchased included citric acid and electric igniters, among other things.

The electric igniters were found in the bomb recovered from West 27th Street, the complaint says.

Cellphones

Investigators found remnants of a cellphone on West 23rd Street, a cellphone near where the explosion took place in Seaside, New Jersey, and another connected to the bomb found on West 27th Street. The complaint says at least two of the phones were believed to be bought from the same store in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, which is where investigators believe Rahami worked.

At least one of the phones had Rahami’s fingerprints and one was subscribed under the name of family member of Rahami.

Video of Rahami testing an explosive

Investigators also recovered a video on the cellphone of a relative of Rahami that shows him testing a homemade explosive in a backyard. The complaint says the video was filmed in Elizabeth on or around Sept. 15, 2016, two days before the bombing in Chelsea. Rahami is heard laughing after the explosion is successful, the complaint says.

Does he have links to international terrorism?

At the news conference following Rahami’s arrest, William F. Sweeney Jr., of the FBI, said there was no evidence of a larger terror operation linked to Rahami.

“I have no indication that there is a cell operating here,” Sweeney said.

Rahami was not listed on U.S. counterterrorism databases, three U.S. officials told Reuters.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters Rahami had traveled to Afghanistan and to Quetta, Pakistan, a city where support for the Taliban is significant.

The official, and other U.S. security sources, said Rahami underwent additional security screening upon returning from abroad but passed each time. One of the officials, who specializes in counter-terrorism, said the "secondary" screening included asking Rahami where he had gone and for what purpose.

What do we know about Rahami’s family?

His father, Mohammed Rahami, ran a restaurant called Khan Fried Chicken in 2006, but, four years later changed the name to First American Fried Chicken, citing “popularity,” according to state records.

By 2008, Elizabeth police were battling with the eatery over its 24-hour schedule. A city ordinance barred takeout restaurants from staying open past 10 p.m.

The restaurant was cited, and although the family appealed the decision, a New Jersey appeals court ruled against the family in 2014, according to records.

The family lived above the store, which is wedged between a beauty salon and a shop advertising money transfers and computer help.

On Monday authorities cordoned off an area around the building and were removing boxes. Officers were on the restaurant’s roof, going in and out of the residence, and one officer leaned out of a window, taking pictures.

What is known about his wife?

Not much is known publicly at this point, but various media, including the New York Times, have reported that Rahami married in Pakistan and brought his wife to the United States.  

She left the United States days before the explosions in New York and New Jersey, a law enforcement source told CNN on Tuesday.

Rahami also had a child with another woman. According to court papers, Maria J. Mena of Edison, New Jersey, received full custody of their child on Tuesday. She said she had not talked to him since January, the documents state.

Other court papers show that Rahami had long been accused of failing to pay child support to Mena.

With Newsday and Reuters