September 19, 2016
NEW YORK — Authorities in New York are searching for a 28-year-old man in connection with the bomb that exploded Saturday night in Manhattan.
An FBI statement says Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen of Afghan decent, is wanted for questioning. It says his last known address was in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN authorities are confident they “need to get this guy in” right away. Earlier Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated that Saturday’ bombing was an “act for terrorism,” and said they may be a “foreign link.” A day earlier, Cuomo had said he didn’t believe there was a connection to “international terrorism.”
The FBI and police in New York have been searching for suspects and possible links between the Saturday blast and another explosive device found nearby.
Authorities stopped a “vehicle of interest” on a highway in the Brooklyn section of New York late Sunday, and the FBI said it questioned five people inside, but that no one had been charged with any crime.
The blast Saturday in the Chelsea neighborhood wounded 29 people, all whom have been released from the hospital.
The second device, recovered a short time after the first went off, involved a pressure cooker with a cell phone attached to it. Police were able to safely remove it from the area and said Sunday they blew it up in a controlled explosion.
FBI technicians are examining evidence from both of the bombs at a lab near Washington.
Tom Sanderson, director of the Transnational Threats Program at the Washington-based Centers for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told VOA he expects investigators will learn a good amount from those tests.
“Someone’s DNA is going to be on some component of that pressure cooker bomb,” Sanderson said.
He put the chances of a jihadist group being responsible at 50 percent, but said that in a diverse area like New York others such as a white supremacist group could have placed the bombs.
Many questions remain
New York City Mayor de Blasio cautioned Sunday a lot of work remains to figure out the motivation behind the bombing.
“Was it a political motivation, a personal motivation, what was it? We do not know that yet,” he told reporters.
New York Governor Cuomo said an extra 1,000 police and National Guard troops would patrol the New York subway system as a precaution.
Both leaders also said there was no evidence yet linking the New York bombs with a pipe bomb that exploded Saturday morning in a trash can in a New Jersey beach town 135 kilometers south of the city. No one was hurt in that blast.
Authorities said yet more devices were found late Sunday in a backpack in a trash can at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, located just outside New York. Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said one of the devices exploded as police tried to disarm it with a robot.
The mayor also said that given the station’s location and where the bag was found, it is “very possible” someone put it in the trash can in order to get rid of it instead of intending for it to blow up there.
Busy time in NYC
New York is especially busy with hundreds of world leaders and dignitaries visiting this week for the U.N. General Assembly.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told VOA that officials assess security needs inside the U.N. complex on a daily basis.
“Outside of the gates, we are in the hands of the host country, at the federal and local levels,” he said. “We appreciate their work and, no doubt, they are doing their utmost to keep everyone safe,” he added.
Chelsea resident Michelle Katz told VOA she was in bed when something sounded “like a bomb exploding or a truck driving into a building.” Two minutes later, “there were endless sirens,” Katz told VOA.
Another witness, Denise Coles, said the bomb went off as she was pulling into a parking place. “I turned the car off and that’s when we heard the explosion. It was like you could feel it inside of you. I looked down the block and I saw the smoke coming out.”
“We’re fortunate that this didn’t happen during the week, like a work day, a Monday or Tuesday,” said Steven Faria, who works at a nearby veterans’ hospital. “With all the people that work in this area, I think the casualties would have been twice as many people.”
VOA reporters Margaret Besheer, Esha Sarai, Ramon Taylor, Steve Herman, and Celia Mendoza contributed to this report from New York.