posted at 10:01 am on September 20, 2016 by Ed Morrissey
The question most asked after attacks like the Minnesota mall stabbing is whether the terrorist was a “lone wolf.” After more sophisticated attacks such as those seen in New York City and New Jersey in the same weekend, the question becomes “Where was the terror cell?” According to the FBI, which at one time had several people detained before the arrest of Ahmad Rahami, the answer — so far — is that they haven’t any indication of its existence:
Now that Rahami is in custody, the investigation is shifting to focus on whether he acted alone and what his motivation may have been, said James O’Neill, the New York police commissioner.
William Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York division, said that authorities have found “no indication that there is a [terror] cell operating in the area.” …
Federal law enforcement officials have told The Washington Post they believe all three cases involving explosives in New York and New Jersey to be linked. They would not say whether the five people taken into custody Sunday night and later released were linked to Rahami or how Rahami’s family fit in, if at all.
Apparently, law enforcement only have Rahami in custody, but they’re not done yet. If that stands, then perhaps this would be more of a Boston Marathon-style terror effort, although it’s worth noting that the Tsarnaev brothers did have help in putting that attack in place. However, CNN reports that investigators do want to track down a couple of more men seen in the videos, apparently providing some assistance to Rahami, perhaps unwittingly:
Though FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said there is “no indication” of an active operating cell in the New York area, evidence suggests Rahami was not acting alone, sources told CNN.
Surveillance video shows a man believed to be Rahami with a duffel bag in the area where an unexploded pressure cooker was found in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
After he leaves, the video shows two other men removing a white garbage bag believed to contain the pressure cooker from the duffel bag and leaving it on the sidewalk, according to a senior law enforcement official and another source familiar with the video.
Investigators want to talk to the two men but appear to have moved away from the idea that the pair had been involved. New York police Commissioner James O’Neill described the men as “strolling” along the street and seeming “incredulous” when they took the bag.
Rahami’s father insisted yesterday that the family had no idea that the son was planning on becoming a terrorist. That might be a bit of a stretch, though. Rahami’s travelogue over the last few years might not have caught the attention of counter-terrorism investigators, but shouldn’t it have raised a few red flags with the family?
Two acquaintances told the New York Times Rahami traveled to Afghanistan about four years ago and that, upon his return, he seemed a changed man, less apt to easy laughter and more serious about his Muslim faith.
“It’s like he was a completely different person,” Flee Jones, a 27-year-old rapper who grew up with Rahami, told the newspaper. “He got serious and completely closed off.”
Rahami abandoned his typical Western clothing in favor of traditional Muslim apparel after his return and began regular prayer sessions in the back of the restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, on Elmora Street in Elizabeth, Jones told the newspaper.
Separately, CNN reported Monday evening that Rahami had also traveled to Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011 and again for an extended period in 2013. The news outlet said he returned to the United States in March 2014 after having married overseas.
Here was another clue — Rahami’s Pakistani wife left the country a few days before the attacks:
The wife of New York and New Jersey bombings suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami left the United States a few days before the attacks, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.
Authorities are working with officials in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates to get access to her and to ask questions about what she knew, the official said.
Didn’t that seem peculiar to Rahami’s family? A strict Muslim presumably would not have sent his wife off to travel alone unless under extraordinary conditions. They might not have had any reason to know specifically what was happening, but they had to wonder at least a little bit about it.
Despite early reports yesterday, it turns out that no one had Rahami on any kind of watch list. Here’s a question to ponder, one asked on Twitter yesterday. How many trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan does it take to end up on the radar of the Joint Task Force on Terrorism? It’s more than three, it seems.