Bombings suspect spent time in Afghanistan, Pakistan, official says

Story highlights

  • Ahmad Khan Rahami traveled to Afghanistan and other countries multiple times, official says
  • He was not on the radar as someone who might have been radicalized, official says

(CNN)Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey, traveled for extended periods to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the last few years, officials said.

Rahami, 28, spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011, according to a law enforcement official who reviewed his travel and immigration record.
    Two years later, in April 2013, he went to Pakistan and remained there until March 2014 before returning to the US, official said.
    Investigators are looking into whether he was radicalized overseas before returning to the United States in 2014, according to the official. As of Monday, the law enforcement official said, there is no indication he was on the radar before this weekend, when explosions went off in New York and New Jersey.

    Multiple trips to Pakistan

    Rahami and his family are from Afghanistan. He first came in January 1995, several years after his father arrived seeking asylum, the official said. He was given a US passport in 2003, while a minor, and again in 2007 after he said he lost his first one. He became a naturalized US citizen in 2011.
    Quetta is considered a stronghold of the Taliban. While there in July 2011, Rahami married a Pakistani woman.
    Upon returning from Pakistan in 2011 to the United States, he had to go through secondary screening because he visited an area of Pakistan known for its Taliban presence, according to the official.
    At that time, he told immigration officials he was visiting family and attending his uncle's wedding and renewing his Pakistani visa.
    In April 2013, Rahami returned to Pakistan and remained there until March 2014, the official said. Two other law enforcement officials confirmed to CNN that Rahami went to Pakistan for approximately a year.
    His brother Mohammad traveled to Pakistan around the same time. Mohammad posted on Facebook at the time that while in Quetta they had heard seven bomb blasts over 24 hours at one point, according to CNN's review of the page. Another post during the trip shows a photo of his brother, Ahmad.
    During that time the official said Ahmad traveled by car to Afghanistan. When he returned to the United States he was again taken into secondary questioning. He told officials he was visiting his wife, uncles and aunts. The official said each time he was taken to secondary screening, he satisfied whatever concerns immigration officials had.
    The official said he was petitioning to bring his wife to the United States. He filed the paperwork in 2011 and it was approved in 2012. But the official said it was unclear if she ever came to the United States.

    Trouble in the United States

    Rahami is in custody after a shootout Monday morning with police in Linden, New Jersey. He was wanted for questioning in connection with Saturday's explosion near a charity race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and another blast a few hours later in New York City that injured 29 people.
    An unexploded pressure cooker was found four blocks from the site of the New York bombing in Chelsea. Surveillance videos appear to show Rahami dragging a duffel bag on wheels near both locations, according to multiple officials.
    Investigators first identified Rahami on Sunday afternoon through a fingerprint, according to a senior law enforcement official. A cell phone connected to the pressure cooker also provided clues, the official said.
    An image of Ahmad Rahami from the FBI poster circulated Monday.
    His last known address was in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where his family lives.
    His family runs First American Fried Chicken in Elizabeth, the city's mayor said. The family has a history of clashes with the community over the restaurant, which used to be open 24 hours a day, Mayor Chris Bollwage said.
    In 2011, the family sued the city of Elizabeth, and its police department for discrimination and harassment against Muslims stemming from disputes over the restaurant's hours. Investigators searched the building on Monday, Bollwage said.
    Zobyedh Rahami, believed to be Rahami's sister, posted on Facebook asking for privacy on Monday.
    "I would like people to respect my family's privacy and let us have our peace after this tragic time," she wrote.