A man wanted for questioning in the bombings that rocked a New York City neighbourhood and a New Jersey shore town was captured Monday after being wounded in a gun battle with police that erupted when he was discovered sleeping in a bar doorway, authorities said.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, appeared conscious, his upper right arm and right leg both bandaged and bloodied, as he was loaded into an ambulance in Linden, N.J., about 32 kilometres outside New York City.
Two officers were wounded in the shootout but were not believed to be seriously hurt, authorities said.
The arrest came just hours after police issued a bulletin and photos of Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan who lived with family in an apartment in nearby Elizabeth, N.J., above a fried-chicken restaurant owned by his father.
‘Act of terror’
“We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference after the arrest.
A law enforcement official said investigators regard Rahami as the “main guy” in the two explosions but plan to look into whether any others had a role.
The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Rahami was not believed to be on federal terror watch lists at the time of the blasts.
De Blasio said authorities weren’t looking for other individuals at this time.
Investigators said they don’t believe Rahami was part of a broader cell in the area.
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said the break in the case came late Monday morning, when the owner of a bar reported someone asleep in his doorway. A police officer went to investigate and recognized the man as Rahami, officials said.
Rahami 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, during which Rahami was shot, according to Capt. James Sarnicki of the Linden Police Department.
Police did not disclose how they zeroed in on Rahami as a person of interest in the bombings, but officials said they were poring over surveillance video and examining bomb fragments and components for evidence.
A vehicle was pulled over Sunday night after police learned it had links to Rahami, the FBI’s Bill Sweeney told a news conference. The five people inside the vehicle were questioned, he said, but no charges have been laid.
The shootout came after a weekend of fear and dread in New York and New Jersey.
In addition to the blast that injured 29 people in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood on Saturday, an unexploded pressure cooker bomb was found blocks away, and a pipe bomb exploded in a New Jersey shore town before a charity race. No one was injured there. On Sunday, five explosive devices were discovered in a trash can at an Elizabeth, N.J. train station, which is about 6.5 kilometres from where Rahami was arrested.
Citing the FBI, New Jersey State Police said Monday that the bombs in Chelsea and the New Jersey shore town Seaside Park were connected.
Around the time Rahami was taken into custody, U.S. President Barack Obama was in New York on a previously scheduled visit for a meeting of the UN General Assembly, and said it was “extremely fortunate” nobody was killed in the bombings.
He called on Americans to show the world “we will never give in to fear.”
“We all have a role to play as citizens to make sure we don’t succumb to that fear. And there’s no better example of that than the people of New York and New Jersey,” the president said. “Folks around here, they don’t get scared.”
The two U.S. presidential candidates weighed in on the New York bombing.
“I think this is something that maybe will … happen more and more all over the country,” Republican nominee Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said on Monday: “The threat is real, but so is our resolve.”
In a news conference, Clinton said the United States needs to work with its allies to combat global terrorism and that the country should launch an “intelligence surge” to detect attacks before they are carried out.
On Sunday, a federal law enforcement official said the Chelsea bomb contained a residue of Tannerite, an explosive often used for target practice that can be picked up in many sporting goods stores.
Cellphones were discovered at the site of both the New York and New Jersey 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 authorized to comment on the investigation and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The pipe bomb that exploded Saturday in Seaside Park went off before a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. The race was cancelled.
One of the five devices found at the Elizabeth train station exploded while a bomb squad robot tried to disarm it. No one was hurt.
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