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Islamic militancy

New York City bombing suspect arrested after gun battle in New Jersey

Suspect was asleep at a bar entrance when accosted by police, sparking shootout in town of Linden, New Jersey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 10:46am

An Afghanistan-born American suspected of detonating a bomb that injured 29 people in New York City and of planting other devices in New York and New Jersey was arrested on Monday after a gun battle with police, but investigators said his motive was unknown.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalised US citizen from Elizabeth, New Jersey, was taken into custody hours after authorities publicly identified him as the prime suspect in the Saturday night blast and sent out an alert to millions of mobile phone users.

Police said they were not looking for other suspects and New York’s mayor said the bombing was being treated as “an act of terror.”

The police had been looking for Rahami for questioning in a weekend explosion in a Manhattan neighbourhood that injured 29 people.

Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said that the owner of a bar reported someone asleep in the doorway of his establishment. A police officer went to investigate and recognised 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 the gun battle and brought Rahami down, Linden police Captain James Sarnicki said.

The bombings and subsequent manhunt came days before world leaders began gathering at the United Nations in New York for the annual General Assembly this week. Officials fortified an already robust security plan for New York with 1,000 additional officers.

Police in Linden, New Jersey, which neighbours Elizabeth about 20 miles (32 km) west of New York, captured Rahami after responding to a complaint by a bar owner of a man sleeping in the closed establishment’s hallway.

“The officer realised that this might be the person that the FBI was looking for. The officer then said, ‘show me your hands,’ and the person went to the side of his body and pulled out a handgun and fired a round at the officer, striking him in the abdomen. Fortunately the officer had his bulletproof vest on,” Sarnicki told reporters.

Rahami also fired on a police car, injuring an officer with broken glass that struck his forehead, officials said.

Police fired back, wounding Rahami in the arm and leg. He was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery. His condition was not considered life threatening, police officials said.

New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, touring the site of Saturday’s blast that injured 29 people in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood, saidthe unexploded pressure cooker device appeared “similar in design” to the bomb that exploded in Chelsea, but he didn’t provide details.

On Sunday, a federal law enforcement official said the Chelsea bomb contained a residue of Tannerite, an explosive often used for target practise that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores. The discovery of Tannerite may be important as authorities probe whether the two New York City devices and the pipe bomb at the Jersey shore are connected.

Cellphones were discovered at the site of both bombings, but no Tannerite residue was identified in the New Jersey bomb remnants, in which a black powder was detected, said the official, who wasn’t authorised to comment on an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The pipe bomb exploded Saturday in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. The race was cancelled and no one was injured.

Witnesses tell of NY blast aftermath

Late Sunday, five suspicious devices were found near the train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said the devices were found in a bag in a trash can by two men who reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of the package. One of the devices exploded as a bomb squad used a robot to try to disarm it. No injuries were reported.

There was no immediate word on whether the devices were similar to those in nearby Seaside Park or New York City.

Officials haven’t revealed any details about the make-up of the pressure cooker device, except to say it had wires and a cellphone attached to it. On Sunday night, police blew up the device, rendering it safe. A forensic examination of the device will be sent to the FBI Laboratory at Quantico, Virginia, police said.

Home-made pressure cooker bombs were used in the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Clinton, Trump react to New York blast

On Sunday, a team of five FBI agents searched an Uber driver’s vehicle that had been damaged in the Manhattan blast. The driver had just picked up three passengers and was driving when the explosion occurred, shattering the car’s windows and leaving gaping holes in the rear passenger-side door.

The Chelsea explosion left many rattled in a city that had marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks only a week earlier and that was schedule to hold a United Nations meeting on Monday to address the refugee crisis in Syria.

Witnesses described a deafening blast that shattered storefront windows and injured bystanders with shrapnel in the mostly residential neighbourhood on the city’s west side.

One New Yorker, Anthony Stanhope, was in his apartment when the blast went off. At first he thought it was thunder and lightning.

“Then all of a sudden, car horns went off, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this isn’t lightning. This is too loud’,” Stanhope said. “This is a bomb.”

Halfway across the country, authorities are investigating the stabbings of nine people at a Minnesota mall as a potential act of terrorism, a finding that would realise long-held fears of an attack in the immigrant-rich state that has struggled to stop the recruiting of its young men by groups including the Islamic State.

A young Somali man dressed as a private security guard entered the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud over the weekend wielding what appeared to be a kitchen knife. The city’s police chief said the man reportedly made at least one reference to Allah and asked a victim if he or she was Muslim before attacking.

The rampage ended when the man was shot dead by an off-duty police officer. None of the injured suffered life-threatening wounds.