Ahmad Khan Rahami kept a notebook filled with jihadist writings and used eBay to purchase many of the components he used to make his bombs, according to charging documents filed Tuesday by authorities in New York and New Jersey.
Rahami faces an array of charges in connection with two bomb-related incidents that occurred on Saturday in New Jersey and two others on the same day in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, including a blast that authorities now say injured 31 people, two more than previously thought. The charges include "use of weapons of mass destruction" and "bombing a place of public use." If convicted, Rahami faces life in prison.
Many details about Rahami's alleged bombs had already been reported by the time the court documents were filed on Tuesday afternoon, but a sworn statement from FBI special agent Peter Licata, a member of the bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force, offers additional insight into the bomb-making process, which sounds shockingly easy.
According to Licata, Rahami began buying bomb ingredients as far back as June 20. His shopping list allegedly included electronic circuit boards and "electric igniters" intended to be used "for fireworks," as well as 200 "hardened lead milling balls" and two packages of .50 caliber "sling shot ammo." Those items, Licata wrote, were used as detonators and shrapnel in the pressure cooker bombs that Rahami placed in Chelsea.
On August 10, Rahami purchased five pounds of citric acid from eBay. The listing for the item described it as "great for bath bombs and candy making." In addition to its many benign uses, Licata noted that citric acid is a "precursor chemical commonly used in improvised explosives." It can be used to make the explosive compound HMTD, which was reportedly found inside a second pressure cooker bomb in Chelsea that failed to detonate.
The bomb that did go off was huge, according to the charging documents. Licata said the blast radius was 650 feet, and the explosion shattered windows on buildings up to 400 feet away and three stories up. One injured woman had to have ball bearings removed from her body and shrapnel and wood shards extracted from her ear and neck, the FBI agent wrote.
Using surveillance footage, authorities tracked Rahami's movements on the night of the Chelsea bombing. He reportedly entered Manhattan from New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel at around 6:30 p.m. He was caught on camera planting the first bomb at 7:53 p.m., and the second four blocks away at 8:32 p.m. — just two minutes after the first one exploded. He was seen leaving Manhattan around 11:30 p.m. Where he was and what he was doing in the hours before and after the bombing remains unclear.
The dud bomb, which may have been disabled by two unwitting thieves, reportedly had Rahami's fingerprints all over it, including on duct tape, a cell phone that was used as a timing mechanism, and on the pressure cooker itself. Rahami's fingerprints were also found on evidence collected from a backpack full of pipe bombs discovered Saturday night near the train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, not far from Rahami's home.
Other evidence — including another cellphone that was used a timing mechanism — links Rahami to three pipe bombs that were taped together and placed inside a trash can along the route of a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, on Saturday morning. One of the bombs exploded, but the race hadn't started yet and nobody was injured.
According to the charging documents, Rahami shopped for the bomb-making materials using a slight variation of his name — "Ahmad Rahimi" — and had them shipped to a business where he worked in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This address is different than the fried chicken shop his family owns in the city.
The FBI says Rahami tested one of his bombs on September 15. The court documents describe a cellphone video that reportedly shows Rahami somewhere in Elizabeth "igniting incendiary material in a cylindrical container." The footage is said to show Rahimi lighting a fuse, which triggers a "loud noise and flames, followed by billowing smoke and laughter."
Rahami was also a fan of Islamist propaganda online, according to Licata. The charging documents reference a social media account linked to Rahami that had list of favorite videos, including two jihad "anthem" songs.
Licata also described the contents of a notebook that police found on Rahami after his shootout with police on Monday in Linden, New Jersey. The notebook, which was pierced by a bullet, reportedly included "laudatory" references to "Brother Osama bin Laden," Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, and "Sheik Anwar," the US-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Rahami quoted al-Awlaki as saying, "attack the kuffar [non-believers] in their backyard."
"The sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets," Rahami allegedly wrote. "Gun shots to your police. Death to your oppression."
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