Chelsea bomber tried to radicalize inmates, prosecutors say

‘Chelsea Bomber’ Ahmad Rahimi sentenced to multiple life terms
Union County Prosecutor
Ahmad Khan Rahimi

The man convicted in the 2016 bombing in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood that injured 30 people has been trying to radicalize other inmates, federal prosecutors say.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi also told a judge he is on a hunger strike.

Rahimi provided inmates with copies of terrorist propaganda and jihadist materials, including speeches by Osama Bin Laden and the late militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, bomb making instructions, books on jihad and issues of the al Qaeda-backed magazine Inspire, prosecutors said.

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,” according to a letter from Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim to US District Judge Richard Berman.

Rahimi let other inmates view the items on his laptop and gave them electronic copies, Kim’s letter said. Discs of the materials were found in two inmates’ possession.

Defense attorneys for Rahimi have yet to respond to the allegations.

Prosecutors said Rahimi began distributing these materials in October if not earlier. Rahimi was convicted October 16 on eight federal charges in connection with the Chelsea bombing.

Among the inmates Rahimi gave the materials to, prosecutors say, is Sajmir Alimehmeti, who is scheduled to go on trial next month on terrorism-related charges.

Alimehmeti is represented by attorney Sabrina Shroff, who is also on Rahimi’s defense team. Kim 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.”

Hunger strike

Rahimi also says he’s on a hunger strike. In an undated handwritten letter to Berman, Rahimi states that he began a hunger strike on December 8 out of protest because he says his wife and children have not been able to visit him since the end of his trial.

“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.

Berman received the letter December 21 and has ordered attorneys for both the government and defense to respond, according to court documents.

Rahimi was arrested and charged after a pressure cooker bomb went off in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood on September 17, 2016. A second pressure cooker bomb was found a few blocks away, on 27th Street, but didn’t detonate.

Earlier the same day, a bomb went off near the start of a Marine Corps charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

After a two-week trial and roughly four hours of jury deliberation, Rahimi was convicted of charges including the use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a public place, destroying property by means of fire or explosives, and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.

During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence — including DNA and fingerprints — linking Rahimi to the bombs that were placed in New Jersey and New York.

Rahimi faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, according to an earlier statement from Kim.

Rahimi faces separate charges in other jurisdictions in connection with the bomb that went off in Seaside Park, a backpack containing improvised explosive devices found the following day at a transit station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and a shootout he had with police before being taken into custody.