You need a spot of luck, great detectives and a super efficient police force to solve a terrorist bombing spree in two days flat. Afghan-born immigrant Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, the suspect in Saturday's bombings in New York and New Jersey was captured on Monday after a massive manhunt and shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey.
The lightening speed at which the NYPD, the New Jersey police and FBI have cracked open the case is a lesson for police forces around the world, including India, in catching culprits behind random acts of violent terrorism.
"We have every reason to believe this was an act of terror," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday at a conference after Rahami underwent surgery for gun shots to his right shoulder.
We all know that 11 September, 2001 attacks (9/11)-scarred New York was rocked by an explosion on Saturday in Chelsea which injured 29 people, but police believe another bomb was intended to go off in the busy city.
The day Ahmad Khan Rahami allegedly planted two bombs in New York's Chelsea — one of which detonated on West 23rd Street — two thieves accidentally helped to disable his second pressure cooker bomb left inside a rolling suitcase on West 27th Street.
"The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase," reported New York's local neighbourhood newspaper DNA Info.
"In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. Since the bomb remained intact, it allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the intact bomb and discover that it was connected to the Rahami family."
"Who in this world finds a pressure cooker (bomb) with a phone and just takes the bag?" quipped Robert Boyce, the NYPD's Chief of Detectives.
In the age of social media, the NYPD quickly turned to Facebook and identified pictures of Rahami's family and of him. They matched one of his social media photos to surveillance footage captured from security cameras in Manhattan and blasted it to policemen and women on the ground.
Similarly, on Sunday night, two homeless men snatched a backpack resting on top of a trash can near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, police said.
“They probably thought there was something of value in that backpack,” said the mayor of Elizabeth, Christian Bollwage.
They started rooting through the bag and found five explosives that officials say are tied to Rahami, prompting them to immediately drop the bag in the middle of the street and alert police, officials said.
Rahami was captured after the owner of a bar in Linden, New Jersey, found him sleeping in the doorway of his bar on Monday morning and called the police. When the New Jersey Police arrived, Rahami went for his handgun and shot a policemen straight in the chest; fortunately he was wearing a safety vest. A second policeman got a hand wound before the suspect was overpowered.
Radicalised in Pakistan, Afghanistan
It is not surprising anymore to find that America has homegrown Muslim terrorists who are radicalised abroad: A famous example is an American terrorist of Pakistani origin David Coleman Headley who conspired with the Lashkar-e-Taiba in plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
It turns out that even Rahami, spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011. Law enforcement official who reviewed Rahami's travel and immigration records told CNN that two years later, in April 2013, he went to Pakistan and remained there until March 2014 before returning to the US. Detectives suspect he got radicalized in Afghanistan and Pakistan before returning to the United states in 2014.
Investigators have discovered a website where Rahami posted messages with distinctly jihadist overtones.