Father of New York bombing suspect says he told police in 2014 he suspected son may be a terrorist

Two years before the bombings that is suspected of carrying out in New York and New Jersey, his father told police that he suspected his son might be involved in terrorism, prompting a review by federal agents, according to two law enforcement officials.

The father, Mohammad Rahami, in a brief interview Tuesday, said that at the time he told agents from the FBI about his concern, his son had just had a fight with another of his sons and stabbed the man, leading to a criminal investigation.

“Two years ago I go to the FBI because my son was doing really bad, OK?” he said. “But they check almost two months, they say, ‘He’s OK, he’s clean, he’s not a terrorist.’ I say OK.”

He added: “Now they say he is a terrorist. I say OK.”

FBIThis undated photo provided by the FBI Khan Rahami, wanted for questioning in the bombings that rocked a New York City neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town was taken into custody Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, after a shootout with police in New Jersey, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. (FBI via AP)

It is not clear if officers ever interviewed Ahmad Rahami, but as investigators turn their focus to what might have motivated, inspired or led him to plant bombs in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and on the Jersey Shore, new clues are emerging indicating that he may have been increasingly receptive to extremist ideology.

When Ahmad Rahami was captured during a shootout with police Monday, authorities found a notebook, pierced with a bullet hole and covered in blood, expressing opinions sympathetic to jihadi causes, according to a law enforcement official who agreed to speak about the investigation only on the condition of anonymity.

In one section of the book, Rahami wrote of “killing the kuffar,” or unbelievers, the official said. Rahami also praised Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaida’s leading propagandist, who died in a in Yemen, as well as the soldier in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting, one of the deadliest “lone wolf” inspired by al-Qaida.

Five years after his death in a drone strike in Yemen ordered by President Barack Obama, al-Awlaki remains a powerful influence on would-be jihadis, especially in the English-speaking West. Among his documented admirers were Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California; Omar Mateen, who fatally shot 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub; and Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who staged an at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with -cooker bombs in 2013.

Thousands of al-Awlaki’s lectures and jihadi declarations are available on the web, as is Inspire magazine, which has published detailed instructions for making pipe bombs as well as more sophisticated explosive devices using pressure cookers and Christmas lights, the same components used in the New York-area bombs.

One key area of investigation is around the question of whether Rahami had help building the bombs or if anyone knew what he was doing and failed to report it. In all, he is linked to 10 explosive devices found in the region, including the two pressure-cooker bombs, one of which exploded in Chelsea on Saturday night, injuring 29 people.

No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. While the Islamic State is usually quick to claim for attacks around the world, organizations linked to al-Qaida vary widely in when or if they eventually claim .

Tariq Zehawi/Northjersey.com via AP
Tariq Zehawi/Northjersey.com via APThe father of Ahmed Rahami, Mohammad Rahami, center left, comes out from his home, through a crowd of media to get to his vehicle, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 in Elizabeth, N.J . Mohammad Rahami contacted the FBI two years ago with concerns his son was a terrorist, a law enforcement official said Tuesday. But the father later retracted the claim.

Authorities are scrutinizing a number of trips Rahami made overseas, particularly several to Pakistan. In May 2011, he made a three-month trip to , according to law enforcement officials, citing Customs and Border Protection records. Then, in April 2013, he made another trip to and did not return until March 2014. During that time, he made a brief trip to Ankara, Turkey, arriving and leaving there in the same month, according to information provided to federal customs authorities by New York City police.

Notably, Rahami underwent an additional interview at the airport with Customs and Border Protection officers on his returns from both of those trips, but customs officers did not flag any concerns in his travel records. Rahmani was born in Afghanistan but he became a naturalized U.S. citizen when he was still a minor.

Just before Rahami returned from his last trip to Pakistan in March, he emailed Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., asking for help getting a visa for his wife to come to America, according to Sires.

New Jersey State Police
New Jersey State PoliceThis frame from surveillance video released by the New Jersey State Police Rahami, wanted for questioning Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in bombings that rocked the Chelsea neighborhood of New York and the New Jersey shore town Seaside Park over the weekend. (New Jersey State Police via AP)

The issue was that his wife’s Pakistani passport had expired and agents at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad discovered that she was 35 weeks pregnant. She was told that she would need to wait until her baby was born so she could apply for U.S. visas for both her and her child.

She eventually made it into the United States but is currently in Islamabad, according to officials.

It was unclear when her visa issue was resolved. But in August 2014, Rahami got into a fight with his family during which he stabbed his brother in the leg with a knife, according to court records.

Police arrived to investigate, and it was at this time that father told them about his concerns about his son being a terrorist. It was unclear exactly what he meant by using that term, but the information was passed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force led by the FBI in Newark, New Jersey. Officers opened what is known as an assessment, the most basic of FBI investigations, and interviewed the father.

An official, when asked about the inquiry, said the father made the comment out of anger at his son and later recanted.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Spencer Platt / Getty ImagesPeople stand behind police lines as firefighters, emergency workers and police gather at the scene of an explosion in Manhattan on September 17, 2016 in New York City

Ahmad Rahami was charged with aggravated assault and illegal weapons possession, according to court records. He spent over three months in jail, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. A grand jury, however, declined to indict Rahami. Assistant director William F. Sweeney, who heads the FBI’s New York office, alluded on Monday at a news conference to a “domestic incident” in which he said the “allegations were recanted.”

Rahami remained in the hospital Tuesday, recovering from surgery for gunshot wounds he sustained during the firefight with police. Two officers were also injured in the gunfight.

Police Officer Angel Padilla, who was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot in the abdomen, was released Monday night, according to Capt. James of the Linden Police Department.

Peter Hammer, a traffic investigator who was sitting in his patrol car when a bullet came through his windshield and grazed his head, was released Tuesday from University Hospital in Newark, Sarnicki said.

Rahami is currently charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, among other charges.

Peter Liguori, deputy public defender in Union County, New Jersey, said that his office had not received a call or application for a lawyer in Rahami’s case.

“If he applies, we’ll help him,” Ligouri said. “We would represent him if he needs our services.”

Rahami had a daughter with a high school girlfriend, Maria Mena, and on Tuesday, she filed court papers seeking full custody of the child, citing his possible involvement in “terrorist related activity in NYC.”

About Marc Santora, Adam Goldman, Rukmini Callimachi and Nate Schweber, The New York Times