National News

Convicted Bomber Tried to Radicalize Fellow Inmates, Officials Say

Posted December 22, 2017 9:10 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors said Friday that the New Jersey man convicted of detonating explosives in the Chelsea section of New York in September 2016 that injured more than 30 people has been “attempting to radicalize fellow inmates” at the Manhattan jail where he is being held pending his sentencing.

The inmate, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, gave the other inmates access to speeches and lectures by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, books on jihad, bomb-making instructions and issues of Inspire, the online magazine published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the government said.

The writings were stored on Rahimi’s laptop, the prosecutors said, and were part of the discovery materials that were provided during his case.

The government said the inmates Rahimi shared the materials with included Sajmir Alimehmeti, a Bronx man who has been charged with providing material support to the Islamic State and is scheduled for trial next month.

The allegations against Rahimi came in a letter Friday from the office of Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, to Judge Richard M. Berman of U.S. District Court, who is to sentence Rahimi on Jan. 18. Rahimi, who was convicted in October, faces a mandatory life sentence for his convictions.

Rahimi had met with some of the inmates to whom he gave the terrorist writings during Friday prayer sessions at the Metropolitan Correction Center, the government’s letter said.

The letter said evidence at Rahimi’s trial showed that his attack had been “motivated by a violent ideology espoused by terrorist leaders” like bin Laden and that he had studied Awlaki’s speeches and Inspire magazine.

Kim’s office wrote that after jail employees learned of Rahimi’s “radicalization efforts,” they searched his personal property and found an address book containing the names and inmate numbers of other terrorism defendants, including Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, a Texan convicted of helping to plan a 2009 attack on a U.S. Army base in Afghanistan, and Maalik Alim Jones, a Maryland man who pleaded guilty to conspiring to support al-Shabab in Somalia.

Kim’s office noted that Rahimi, Alimehmeti and another unidentified inmate with whom Rahimi was accused of sharing the materials are all represented by the federal public defender’s office, and asked that Berman hold a hearing to ensure that Rahimi had knowingly waived any potential conflict of interest that might exist.

In a separate letter to the judge, which was also filed publicly Friday, Rahimi said he began a hunger strike Dec. 8, complaining that his family was not being permitted to visit him and he had not been allowed to call his lawyer.

“I am extremely frustrated and physically tired and mentally drained of the continuous run around they are giving me,” Rahimi wrote. Berman ordered that the government and Rahimi’s lawyer each file responses.

One of Rahimi’s public defenders, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment on both the government’s and Rahimi’s letters, as did Kim’s office; a jail spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.