Investigators have not been able to question a man charged with setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey because he is too severely injured from his shootout with police, a law enforcement official said on Thursday as the man’s father said he had warned US federal authorities about the man’s interest in extremist material.
Ahmad Khan Rahami remained hospitalized after his gunbattle with police officers on Monday, and it was unclear when he might be taken to court to face federal terrorism charges in the blasts, which injured 31 people on Saturday.
A public defender has sought a court appearance for Rahami so he can hear the charges against him.
Rahami, an Afghan-born US citizen, has been unconscious and intubated for much of the time since undergoing surgery, said Robert Reilly, a spokesman for the FBI’s Newark office.
The official who discussed authorities’ inability to question Rahami was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors say Rahami, 28, planned the explosions for months as he bought components for his bombs online and set off a backyard blast.
They say he wrote a journal that praised Osama bin Laden and other Muslim extremists, fumed about what he saw as the US government’s killing of Muslim holy warriors and declared “death to your oppression.”
Rahami’s father said in a New York Times interview published on Thursday that he had told the FBI two years ago that Rahami was drawn to al-Qaeda and Taliban videos and poetry.
“I told the FBI to keep an eye on him,” the Times quoted the father as saying in his native Pashto.
He said he told the agents he could not say “100 percent if he is a terrorist.”
The FBI has said it looked into Rahami in 2014 after learning of comments his father made after Rahami was arrested on charges of stabbing his brother.
The FBI said it checked databases, consulted other agencies and conducted interviews but found nothing tying Rahami to terrorism.
At the time, Rahami’s father backed away from talk of terrorism and told investigators he simply meant Rahami was hanging out with the wrong crowd, including gang members, a law enforcement official said this week.
The father, Mohammad Rahami, said the FBI never spoke to his son, who was jailed at the time on the stabbing charge.
The son ultimately was not prosecuted after a grand jury declined to indict him.
The FBI had no immediate comment on the father’s remarks on Thursday.
As authorities tried to piece together information on Ahmad Rahami, his wife gave them a statement this week after walking into the US embassy in the United Arab Emirates.
The wife has returned to the US, a law enforcement official said.
She is believed to have left the US for overseas in June. Investigators have not suggested that she is suspected of any wrongdoing.
Investigators have also been looking into Rahami’s overseas travel, including a visit to Pakistan a few years ago, and want to know whether he received money or training from extremist organizations.
Rahami and his brothers spent time with their grandfather in Afghanistan in 2012, their father said.
A neighbor on the family’s block in Elizabeth on Thursday said that the father had hoped the trip would nurture more discipline in the sons and when they returned they seemed more religious.
“They said, ‘Yeah, you know, we went back to our roots,’” said the neighbor, Jaime Reyes.
The bombings in Seaside Park and Manhattan spurred a manhunt that ended on Monday in Linden.
Patrolman Angel Padilla said he tried to roust a man sleeping in a doorway and recognized Rahami’s face from a public alert hours before.
Authorities say Rahami shot Padilla in his protective vest before other officers exchanged gunfire with Rahami and subdued him.
Padilla told students on Thursday at a Linden school that he was “a bit nervous” when he confronted Rahami, but “I can only say: I was just doing my job.”
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