US reviews ease of buying bomb components online after New York City blast

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 11:03pm

The increasingly common practice of purchasing materials used in home-made explosives online is being eyed for renewed scrutiny by federal authorities in the wake of last weekend’s bombing campaign in New York and New Jersey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday.

“We’ll be reviewing ways in which suspects are gaining access to bomb components by way of the Internet,’’ Lynch said.

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors alleged the lone suspect in the bombings, Ahmad Rahami, shopped on eBay beginning in June and as recently as August for igniters, ball bearings and circuit boards used in the assembly of devices planted at four separate locations, including Manhattan where 31 people were injured when a pressure-cooker device detonated Saturday evening.

eBay has said the company is cooperating in the ongoing federal investigation, yet acknowledged a central concern of law enforcement: “The types of items bought by the suspect are legal to buy and sell in the United States and are widely available at online and offline stores,’’ the company said in a statement.

Spokesman Ryan Moore said the company has “internal processes in place to detect and report suspicious activity to authorities, including risk-based reporting and filters tied to buying and selling activity, items that may be associated with criminal activity and various other identifiers”.

“We routinely meet with various federal and local law enforcement entities to refine these processes, while also working collaboratively with them in investigations,” he said.

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In the Rahami case, according federal court documents, the suspect made no apparent effort to disguise his identity – using his name as the registered user on the website – or a New Jersey address linked to him.

Meanwhile, Lynch said federal investigators in the bomb inquiry continue to examine Rahami’s travels abroad, including extended visits in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was born in 1988. He arrived in the US in 1995. Authorities also have been questioning Rahami’s wife, Asia Bibi Rahami, who returned to the US, late Wednesday after spending more than two months abroad, a federal law enforcement official said.

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The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly, said the suspect’s wife has been cooperative during questioning and there is no immediate indication she knew of her husband’s alleged plan. Rahami’s wife left the US in June and was previously scheduled to return this month, the official said. Authorities believe she may be able to provide details about her husband’s past travels abroad.

Ahmad Rahami, 28, was taken into custody Monday following a gunfight with police in Linden, New Jersey, not far from where he lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Rahami was shot more than six times, the official said, with one bullet penetrating the abdomen.