New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was investigated by the FBI when his father called him a terrorist in a 2014 dispute, two years before the Sept. 17 attacks, law enforcement officials report.
“Two years ago I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, OK” the father, Mohammed Rahami, said to The New York Times, according to Business Insider. “But they check almost two months, they say, 'He's OK, he's clean, he's not a terrorist.' I say OK.”
“Now they say he is a terrorist,” he added. “I say O.K.”
The father’s reported comments that Ahmad was a terrorist came about following a domestic dispute in the Rahami household, in which the bombing suspect was accused of stabbing his brother. According to USA Today, a neighbor overheard Mohammed call Ahmad a terrorist while ordering him out of the house during the incident, and passed the information on to local police.
The neighbor’s statement caught the attention of the FBI’s “guardian” program, which investigates public tips about possible terror activity, who opened an assessment of the Rahami household following the incident. When asked about the assessment, officials told The New York Times that Mohammed recanted and claimed he made the statement out of anger.
On Sept. 13, in the days following the bombings, Mohammed maintained that his comments were nothing more than heated conjecture, reports The Boston Globe. When the Globe team asked if he believed his son was a terrorist, the father responded that he didn't, and the FBI didn't, either.
As investigators turn their attention to Ahmad’s potential motivations for the bombings, new clues are emerging that may connect the suspect to extremist ideology, according to The New York Times.
In a notebook authorities found in connection with the bombings, Ahmad allegedly wrote of killing unbelievers, in addition to expressing sympathetic opinions to Jihadist causes, reports Business Insider. The notebook also praised leading Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, whose online publication "Inspire Magazine" has published instructions for building explosive devices similar to those used in the New York-area bombs, one official reports.
Investigators have currently linked Ahmad to 10 explosive devices surrounding the bombings, including a pressure cooker bomb that injured 29 people after exploding in Chelsea, New York, on Sept. 17. According to The New York Times, authorities are investigating whether Ahmad had any assistance building the bombs or if anyone knew of his plans beforehand, with particular attention given to trips the suspect made abroad between 2010 and 2014.
Despite spending almost a year in Pakistan prior, authorities do not currently believe Ahmad was part of a larger terror cell in the region, but continue to search for any evidence that may link to a larger terrorist network.