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Federal Jury In N.Y. Convicts Man Of 'Crimes Of Terror' In Chelsea Bombing

Ahmad Khan Rahimi faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, prosecutors say. He's seen here last December, three months after bombs exploded in New Jersey and New York's Chelsea neighborhood.
Mel Evans

A federal jury has convicted Ahmad Khan Rahimi of all counts related to last fall's bombing in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood and two related plots. One device injured 30 people in Chelsea; another failed to explode in Manhattan — but a third went off at a Marine Corps charity race at the Jersey Shore.

Rahimi "now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison," says acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, who said the bomber had "attacked our country and our way of life" after being inspired by ISIS and al-Qaida.

The eight federal charges against Rahimi ranged from the use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to the interstate transportation and receipt of explosives and the bombing of a place of public use.

Rahimi, who was 28 at the time of the attacks, was arrested late in the morning of Sept. 19, 2016 — two days after one bomb exploded in a trash can along the route of a planned charity race in Seaside Park, N.J., and another bomb exploded in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. The day before his capture, a bag with five bombs in it was found outside a train station in Elizabeth, N.J.

The Chelsea bomb struck at 23rd Street around 8:30 p.m.; authorities say it held a high explosive main charge that sent a 100-pound dumpster more than 120 feet and left "multimillion-dollar property damage across a 650-foot crime scene."

Blocks away from that bomb, another one was reported; this one was on 27th Street and was "rendered safe" before being detonated. Both of the bombs had been made using pressure cookers and cellphones (likely for use as timers) and had been packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, investigators said.

Rahimi is a U.S. citizen who was born in Afghanistan on Jan. 23, 1988. Investigators reportedly identified him as a suspect because "a cellphone attached to an explosive device that did not detonate initially led them to the suspect's father," as the Two-Way reported.

Rahimi was captured after a shootout with police that left him wounded — and which sparked additional state charges against him. When New Jersey filed charges against him last October, he pleaded not guilty from a hospital bed. He was indicted on federal charges one month later.

We'll note that during the initial investigations and news releases about Rahimi, officials spelled his name as Rahami. That changed within weeks of his arrest.

Of Monday's findings against Rahimi, Kim said, "Today's verdict is a victory for New York City, a victory for America in its fight against terror, and a victory for all who believe in the cause of justice."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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