Feds: Chelsea Bomber Found ‘Attempting to Radicalize Fellow Inmates’ | chelseanow.com

Feds: Chelsea Bomber Found ‘Attempting to Radicalize Fellow Inmates’

Video evidence from day five of Ahmad Khan Rahimi’s trial shows him on Seventh Ave. on the night of the bombing, carrying a suitcase containing what prosecutors said was a pressure cooker bomb. | File photo courtesy US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY

BY WINNIE McCROY | The terrorist convicted last October and currently awaiting sentencing in connection to the pressure cooker bomb he set off on W. 23rd St. in 2016 was found allegedly attempting to radicalize other prisoners, federal prosecutors said.

The jailed New Jersey man, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, reportedly distributed speeches by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, literature on how to jihad and how to make bombs, and copies of Inspire, the online magazine published by Al Qaeda. These materials were found on the personal laptop of Rahimi, who now says he is on a hunger strike.

Acting United States Attorney Joon H. Kim said that 29-year-old Rahimi was found “attempting to radicalize fellow inmates” during Friday prayer sessions at the Metropolitan Correction Center — including Sajmir Alimehmeti, a Bronx man charged with providing material support to ISIS, who is scheduled for a trial next month. Officials say that Alimehmeti, arrested in May 2016, also had a hard drive stored in a jail locker, to review his pre-trial discovery evidence in the jail’s law library. Instead, that evidence was partially wiped out to make room for ISIS propaganda materials from Rahimi.

In a letter to the US Attorney’s Office, federal Judge Richard Berman said that after prosecutors learned of these “radicalization efforts,” the “MCC staff searched his personal property and located, among other things, an address book containing the names and inmate numbers of other defendants charged with terrorism offenses.”

Among those names were Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, the Texan convicted of helping plan the 2009 attack on a US Army base in Afghanistan; and Maalik Alim Jones, a Maryland man who pled guilty to conspiring to support the Shabab in Somalia, as reported in a Dec. 22, 2017 New York Times article.

Rahimi “has been attempting to radicalize fellow inmates in the Metropolitan Correction Center by, among other things, distributing propaganda and publications issued by terrorist organizations,” wrote Kim.

According to Kim’s letter, Rahimi let other inmates view the items on his laptop and gave them electronic copies. Discs of the materials were found in two inmates’ possession. Defense attorneys for Rahimi have yet to respond to the allegations.

A photo of Ahmad Khan Rahimi, released by the NYPD before he was apprehended in connection to the Sept. 17, 2016 Chelsea bombing. | File photo via NYPD

CONVICTED, AWAITING SENTENCING | Video footage tracked Rahimi planting the pressure cooker bomb in Chelsea on September 17, 2016; more than 30 people were injured when the bomb detonated in a dumpster near the King David Gallery at 131 W. 23rd St. (btw. Sixth and Seventh Aves.), the blast shattering windows some 400 feet away. A second pressure cooker bomb was found on W. 27th St., but it did not detonate. Police have video of two men removing the W. 27th St. device from a suitcase, then leaving with the suitcase; those men were not involved in the bombing.

In an Oct. 5, 2017 Chelsea Now article, local resident Jane Schreibman spoke about seeing and reporting this second pressure-cooker bomb, which she said “had wires coming out of it and a white plastic bag attached to it.”

“I was afraid it was a bomb,” she told the court, and proceeded to call 911 to report it — a call played back during Rahimi’s trial. On Sept. 30, 2016, Schreibman received a Proclamation declaring “Jane Schreibman Appreciation Day” in the borough of Manhattan.

In what assistant US Attorney Andrew DeFilippis called a “cold and calculating” attack, Rahimi planted these bombs in various locations through New York and New Jersey, including one that went off at a Marine Corps 5K charity run near Seaside Park, New Jersey. That bomb was set to go off at the start of the race, which was delayed, preventing any injuries from the blast.

After a two-week trial, Rahimi was convicted on Oct. 16, 2017 of eight federal charges including bombing a public place, use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, destroying property by means of fire or explosive, and using a destructive device in the furtherance of a violent crime. Rahimi also faces separate charges in other jurisdictions for the pipe bombs found by a homeless man and his friend near a train station in Elizabeth, NJ, and the shootout he had with police before they took him into custody.

“The Chelsea bombing was an attempt to bring our city to its knees. Instead, our NYPD, FBI and federal prosecutors have brought Ahmad Rahimi to justice,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio about Rahimi’s conviction. “His evil was met with the bravery and resiliency of a beautiful neighborhood and an entire city. New York City will never be intimidated. We remain vigilant, resolute and safe.”

In a Jan. 2 email statement, City Councilmember Corey Johnson told Chelsea Now, “I have full confidence that the prosecutors of this case will continue to hold Mr. Rahimi accountable for his actions and that justice will be brought when Judge Richard M. Berman sentences Mr. Rahimi on January 18.”

HUNGER STRIKE | Rahimi declared that he began a hunger strike on Dec. 8, 2017 because his family members were not allowed to visit him. In a letter to the judge, he reportedly wrote that he was angry that he has not been permitted to see his family, or to call his lawyer.

Rahimi complained that he has been prevented from seeing his wife, whose visa application is being held up, as well as his younger brother, who apparently is no longer on his list of permitted visitors. He said that his defense attorneys had not raised the issue of visitation since his outburst during the Oct. 2017 trial, when he complained to Berman about not having been able to see his wife or three children.

“I am on a short time because my sentencing date is on January 18, 2018. Because of this short time and the frustration, I have decided to go on a hunger strike,” Rahimi wrote in a handwritten, undated letter that Berman received on Dec. 21, 2017. Berman has ordered attorneys for both the government and defense to respond, according to court documents.

“I am extremely frustrated and physically tired and mentally drained of the continuous runaround they are giving me,” wrote Rahimi. His public defender, Sabrina Shroff, who is also representing Alimehmeti, has declined to comment on either the letter from Rahimi or the one from the government.

CNN noted that Kim’s office, which also declined to comment, wrote to Berman asking for a hearing to make sure Rahimi “has knowingly waived the potential conflict of interest that exists between [Rahimi] and his attorneys,” because the same defenders office is involved in all three cases.