He was apparently a funny, carefree guy before he went back to Afghanistan where he ‘found religion’. His father claims he had no idea of his son’s plans. Do you believe him?
The father of the man accused of a spate of bombings in New York and New Jersey has denied all knowledge of the terror plot.
Ahmad Rahami was an ‘Americanized’ asylum seeker who moved to the United States aged seven with his family in 1995. A ‘class clown,’ he worked at his family’s chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey from 2002 and loved to chat about fast cars.
But that all changed after he returned from a trip to his home country of Afghanistan. Friends told the Boston Herald he was transformed and came back ‘real religious’.
The 28-year-old was arrested Monday after a shoot-out with cops for planting a series of explosives that injured 29 people, police say.
Today, his father Mohammad Sr, 53, denied all knowledge of the plot.
When asked by MSNBC whether he knew of his son’s alleged plot, he shook his head and replied ‘No’.
Reporters asked whether Mohammad Snr. believed whether the allegations against his son might be true. He said: ‘I’m not sure what’s going on. I’m not sure what’s happening exactly.
‘But I think so. It’s very hard right now to talk, okay?’
But as a boy at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, he was a ‘class clown’ who messed around with classmates and talked sports, a friend told Buzzfeed News.
‘He was in my 9th grade English class,’ Hakeem Ezzouhairy, 27, of Maplewood, said. ‘Very funny, class clown. Got along with everyone, was a very nice kid.
‘Never would I [have] thought years later he would be capable of something like this.’
‘At one point he left to go to Afghanistan, and two years ago he came back, popped up out of nowhere and he was real religious,’ added Flee Jones, 27.
‘And it was shocking. I’m trying to understand what’s going on. I’ve never seen him like this.’
Jones told The New York Times that after returning Rahami became ‘a completely different person’ who was ‘closed off’ and started praying in the back of the family’s chicken restaurant.
One friend told CNN that Rahami’s father had wanted him to go back to Afghanistan to learn discipline.
Rahami made ‘multiple’ visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan CNN reported, although it’s not clear whether this was before or after his transformation.
He also married a Pakistani woman, CNN’s Situation Room reported.
And a person who appeared to be related to Rahami and apparently shared his home posted pro-Islamist militancy images on Facebook, AOL reported.
The site said someone of the same name as Rahami posted an image of foreign fighters training in Syria along with a quote by Khalid Bin Walid, named in the Koran as a military commander and companion of the Prophet Muhammad.
The quote reads: ‘I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life.’
Ahmad and the other men working in the shop had largely worn Western clothing – although Mohammad’s wife wore the hijab – until recently, one local, who did not wish to be identified, told Dailymail.com.
‘Up until recently they wore regular clothes like us and then they started dressing in their culture’s clothes,’ they said.
And despite the horrors he would be accused of, some said he was friendly in the restaurant.
Ryan McCann, a local who ate at the shop, told BBC Worldwide: ‘He’d always talk about his cars. He loved Civics, he loved going fast, that’s what he did, he’d talk about his cars.’
But Rahami and his family didn’t fit perfectly into the Elizabeth community: in 2011, they filed a lawsuit against local police, saying they subjected him and his family to discrimination and ‘selective enforcement’ based on their religion.
The family claimed that police tried to shut down their chicken restaurant, called First American, too early each night with ‘baseless’ tickets and summonses.
Ahmad, 28, his father Mohammad Sr, 53, and his brother Mohammad, brought the lawsuit together and said that local residents also racially abused them and said: ‘Muslims don’t belong here’.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 and reveals that Ahmad has a long history of grievances with city officials, their local police force and people who lived close to them.
Five years later, Ahmad has been held over his alleged involvement in the New York and New Jersey bombings.
The lawsuit, filed in the federal court in Newark, says that the family are from Afghanistan and are all Muslims who have owned the chicken restaurant since 2002.