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Father of accused bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami stands by claim about FBI

NEW YORK — The father of the man accused of carrying out bombings last weekend in New York and New Jersey said that, two years ago, he warned federal agents explicitly about his son’s interest in terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and his fascination with jihadi music, poetry, and videos.

In a series of interviews Wednesday and Thursday, Mohammad Rahami, whose son Ahmad Khan Rahami has been charged with using weapons of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use, recounted his interactions with the FBI after he raised concerns about his son.

While Mohammad Rahami has spoken briefly about his contact with the FBI, the interviews this week provide his most detailed public account so far.

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His description of that contact differs starkly from the one given by law enforcement officials, who challenged the father’s account Thursday, saying he did not provide the FBI with many of the details about his son that he now says he did.

Mohammad Rahami’s contact with the authorities began in August 2014, when police were called to the family’s home in Elizabeth, N.J., after a domestic dispute in which Ahmad stabbed his brother, according to court records.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the case who would discuss it only on the condition of anonymity said that Mohammad Rahami called his son a terrorist when talking to local police, which led to the involvement of the FBI.

Rahami said that during the course of the investigation he told agents from the bureau everything he knew about his son’s activities.

“I told the FBI to keep an eye on him,” he said. “They said, ‘Is he a terrorist?’ I said: ‘I don’t know. I can’t guarantee you 100 percent if he is a terrorist. I don’t know which groups he is in. I can’t tell you.’ ”

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But he said he laid out his concerns, specifically related to what he said was his son’s emerging infatuation with Islamic extremism.

“The way he speaks, his videos, when I see these things that he listens to, for example, Al Qaeda, Taliban, he watches their videos, their poetry,” he said he told federal agents.

In the interview, the father spoke about his son’s admiration of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was once Al Qaeda’s leading propagandist and is also popular with the Islamic State’s followers, and recalled that his son watched Awlaki’s videos.

The FBI, in a statement this week, said it had conducted an assessment of Ahmad Rahami that included interviews with his father, a review of bureau databases and public records, and checks with other agencies. But the assessment did not turn up anything that warranted further inquiry, and the matter was closed.

When agents first interviewed Mohammad Rahami on Aug. 26, they asked him about his comments to the police, according to some of the officials.

The father told them that he was referring to gangsters and criminals, not terrorists, the officials said.

But Rahami’s father told the FBI that he had walked by his son’s room and observed him watching a YouTube video of explosions, the officials said. It was unclear what kind of explosions were in the video.

On Sept. 12, 2014, the FBI returned and told the father that his son was cleared of any connection to terrorism, and on Sept. 19, the review was formally closed. The father said he was not surprised by the FBI’s findings. He repeated that his son was not a terrorist but had been hanging out with “bad people,” officials said.

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