FBI interviewed Rahami's father in 2014 after a tip that the father had called his son a terrorist
Rahami's wife left the country before the attacks; she's cooperating with investigators
In just a few days, Ahmad Khan Rahami went from virtually unknown to a suspected serial bomber.
Sources say they believe Rahami is linked to an explosives-laden backpack found in Elizabeth, New Jersey – a city where Rahami had lived.
While authorities believe they have their main suspect, they’re still trying to figure out a motive – and whether Rahami had help.
Here’s what we know about the suspect:
His background and education
– Rahami was born in Afghanistan in 1988 and first came to the United States in 1995, several years after his father arrived seeking asylum, a law enforcement official said.
– He became a naturalized citizen in 2011.
– Rahami majored in criminal justice at Middlesex County College in Edison, New Jersey, school spokesman Tom Peterson said. Rahami attended from 2010-2012 but did not graduate.
– Rahami married a Pakistani woman in 2011 while he was visiting the country.
– In 2014, while he was in Islamabad, Rahami contacted U.S. Rep. Albio Sires’ office, saying he was concerned about his wife’s passport and visa. It turned out her Pakistani passport had expired. Once it was renewed, Asia Bibi Rahami discovered she was pregnant. She was told she would need a visa for the baby as well. It is unclear what happened to the child.
– Rahami’s wife eventually made it to the US – and she left before Saturday’s attacks, a law enforcement official said.
– The wife is cooperating with investigators and has spoken with US officials in the United Arab Emirates, a US official said.
– The FBI interviewed Rahami’s father in 2014 after a violent domestic dispute. That interview stemmed from a tip alleging that Rahami’s father was calling his son a terrorist, according to two US officials.
Ultimately, federal investigators believed it was a domestic dispute, federal officials told CNN. At the time of that interview, Rahami was in jail following a family dispute in which he stabbed one of his relatives.
The FBI never interviewed Ahmad Rahami, according to officials. He was never placed in an FBI database of potential terrorists, officials said.
– Rahami’s family lives in an apartment above First American Fried Chicken in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Mayor Chris Bollwage said. The family has a history of clashes with the community over the restaurant, which used to be open 24 hours a day,
– The Rahami family alleged discrimination and harassment in a lawsuit against the city and its police department in 2011, arguing that officials conspired against them with citations for allegedly violating a city ordinance on hours of operation.
– The suit alleged that police officers and city officials had said “the restaurant presented a danger to the community.” It also accused a neighboring business owner of saying, “Muslims make too much trouble in this country” and “Muslims don’t belong here.” The defendants, including police officers and city officials, denied the allegations.
– Bollwage said a 2012 ruling on the case favored the city, adding that the family’s restaurant was “disruptive in the city for many, many years.”
– In a Facebook post Monday, a family member asked for privacy.
“I would like people to respect my family’s privacy and let us have our peace after this tragic time,” wrote Zobyedh Rahami, who’s believed to be Rahami’s sister.
His alleged connection to the bombings
– Investigators “directly linked” Rahami to devices from New York and from Saturday’s explosion in New Jersey, FBI Special Agent William Sweeney Jr. said. He declined to provide details about the evidence, citing the ongoing investigation.
– Investigators believe Rahami is the man seen on surveillance video dragging a duffel bag near the site of the New York blast and the location where police eventually found a suspicious pressure cooker four blocks away, multiple officials said.
– 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 some clues, the official said.
– Harinder Bains, the owner of Merdie’s Tavern in Linden, New Jersey, said he spotted Rahami sleeping in the doorway of his bar Monday morning. Bains said he recognized Rahami after seeing pictures of the suspect on CNN and called police.
– When officers arrived, Rahami pulled out a handgun and fired, Linden police said. A shootout ensued. Rahami and two officers were struck, but all three survived.
His travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan
– Rahami traveled to Afghanistan multiple times, according to law enforcement sources. He was questioned every time he returned to the United States, as is standard procedure, but was not on the radar as someone who might have been radicalized, one official said.
– Rahami spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011, according to a law enforcement official who reviewed his travel and immigration record. Quetta is considered a stronghold of the Taliban. He married his wife during that trip.
– Upon his return to the United States, Rahami 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.
– Two years later, in April 2013, Rahami went to Pakistan and stayed there until March 2014, the official said. His brother Mohammad traveled to Pakistan about the same time.
– During that time, the official said, Ahmad Rahami also traveled by car to Afghanistan as well. When he returned to the United States, he was once again taken into secondary questioning and told officials he was visiting his wife, his uncles and his aunts.
The official said each time he was taken to secondary screening, he satisfied whatever concerns immigration officials had.
– Investigators are looking into whether Rahami was radicalized overseas before returning to the United States in 2014, the official said. On Monday, law enforcement said so far there is no indication he was on their radar before the attacks in New York and New Jersey.
CNN’s Adam Levine, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, Holly Yan, Drew Griffin, Jean Casarez, Patricia DiCarlo, Curt Devine, Joe Sterling and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.