(NEW YORK) — The father of New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami told ABC News that his wife and one of his other sons have been detained in Afghanistan, after being pulled off a flight in Dubai and questioned for 16 hours by authorities there.
In his first in-depth broadcast interview, Mohammad Rahami said his wife, Najiba, and son, Qassim, were trying to return to the U.S. when they were held in the United Arab Emirates and eventually sent to Kabul.
“Why send my son back to Afghanistan? He is a U.S. citizen. You have any questions? Bring him home, [don’t] send him to a different country,” Mohammad Rahami said of Qassim.
The elder Rahami denied that anyone in his family, including Qassim, had anything to do with Ahmad’s alleged bombings in New York and New Jersey on Sept. 17 that injured 29 people.
Mohammad Rahami, whose family is originally from Afghanistan but lived in New Jersey, said that he hadn’t spoken with Ahmad since a falling out in May. But he knew that in the months before the attack, his son had become secretive, changed the lock on his bedroom door and became extremely angry when a young relative once tried to enter without permission.
Ahmad’s wife left the U.S. in June — for dental work in Afghanistan, according to Mohammad — and that’s when a criminal complaint says Ahmad began buying bomb components. Mohammad said that also appears to be when Ahmad started to grow out his beard.
“He did everything by himself. He buy everything by himself — order, online, he did [it] by himself,” Mohammad said.
After the bombing, Mohammad said it was the FBI that told him his son was the suspect.
Though Mohammad said he was “shocked” at the news, he also responded by telling agents, “This is [a] stupid son.”
In light of the bombing, Mohammad described Ahmad as “not a human being… not a Muslim.”
“If you’re Muslim, you respect your father. If you’re Muslim, you respect religion. If you’re Muslim, you respect your country,” Mohammad said.
Mohammad said that as far back as 2011 he was concerned his son may have fallen in with the “wrong kind of people” during a trip to Pakistan. Mohammad said his brother, who lived in Pakistan, warned him about suspicious characters Ahmad may have been in contact with, but neither Mohammad nor his brother knew exactly who the people were.
When Ahmad was back in the U.S. the next year, Mohammad said he caught him watching disturbing jihadist videos online. Mohammad kicked him out over it.
“I said, ‘Listen, if you watch this video in my home, please leave my house,'” Mohammad said.
A U.S. official previously told ABC News that Ahmad returned to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2013 and stayed for nearly a year before coming back to the U.S. in 2014.
It was after his return in 2014 that Mohammad called the FBI on his son after a domestic dispute. Mohammad said he told federal agents they needed to “watch this guy” and that Ahmad was “not a normal person.”
The FBI said last week they looked into Ahmad at the time and found no terror ties. Law enforcement officials also alleged that Mohammad had called the FBI back and recanted some of his statements about Ahmad.
In the interview with ABC News Tuesday, Mohammad said that’s not true and that he never recanted.
“No. It’s 100 percent wrong,” Mohammad said. “They [did] not do their job.”
Mohammad said FBI agents were the ones to tell him that Ahmad was not a terrorist in 2014. “I said, ‘Thank you, God, that’s very good,'” Mohammad said.
Coincidentally, Mohammad said the FBI agent with whom he interacted in 2014 was present when Ahmad was shot and captured last week.
Just hours before Mohammad’s interview with ABC News Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey responded to a question in a Senate committee hearing about Mohammad allegedly telling the FBI that Ahmad was a “terrorist” by saying that those “facts are wrong about what [Ahmad’s] father told the FBI.”
“But there as well, we will go back and scrub our prior contact with that matter very, very carefully,” Comey said.
Comey said it did not appear that the suspect had acted as part of a terror cell. Federal agents said, however, they’re looking closely at some of the radical social media posts shared by one of Ahmad’s sisters who lives in Pakistan. Mohammad was surprised when he saw what was on a Facebook page that appeared to belong to his daughter and said he did not believe it could be hers because she’s “a really good person.”
“No, no. She’s never part of that thing,” Mohammad said.
The bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami, 28, is still being treated in a hospital in New Jersey for serious gunshot wounds he purportedly sustained in a shootout with police.
Mohammad told ABC News he spoke with Ahmad’s doctor Monday, who told him Ahmad was suffering from some infections. Mohammad said he was not told if his son was expected to survive.
Ahmad has been charged with a litany of crimes related to the bombing — in which 29 people were injured — and the police shootout. When asked about the possibility that his son could spend the rest of his life in prison, should he pull through, Mohammad said that it is all in Allah’s hands.
“He needs a trial, that’s what he wanted,” Mohammad Rahami said. “I told him, ‘If you do wrong, you’re going to receive bad [things].’ He didn’t listen to me.”
Mohammad also told ABC News he wanted to apologize to the victims of his son’s purported bombing.
“I say to everybody, ‘I’m sorry, forgive me,'” he said. “I don’t have any connection [to the bombing] but I still say, ‘I’m sorry.'”
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