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U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, center left, D-8th District, N.J., answers a question as he stands outside the First American Fried Chicken restaurant Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Elizabeth, N.J. The Elizabeth establishment and the apartment above are tied to Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was arrested as a suspect in the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey. Sires says Rahami contacted him in 2014 about help with his wife immigrating to the U.S. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

NJ mayor blasts FBI for keeping his city in the dark about accused terrorist bomber


NJ mayor blasts FBI for keeping his city in the dark about accused terrorist bomber

WATCH  | Elizabeth, New Jersey Mayor J. Christian Bollwage talks about how his New Jersey community learned that one of its residents was the main suspect in a terrorist bombing from the media and not the FBI.

Rahami was known to authorities

The mayor of the New Jersey community where Ahmad Khan Rahami is accused of planting  pipe bombs at his hometown train station says the FBI kept local police and leaders in the dark about the suspect and his connections to a separate New York City bombing incident last weekend.

Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage says the lack of communication from federal law enforcement prevented his city from taking any precautions or assisting the hunt for a suspect, whom they knew well from prior disputes. 

'Need is to inform and protect'

"I understand the concerns FBI and Homeland Security have regarding sharing information and fear that it will leak and hurt an investigation," Bollwage said. "But from a mayor's point of view, our need is to inform and protect our residents.

"It becomes difficult for local authorities to reassure and protect their communities when they are not in the loop."

Bollwage added the FBI didn't inform local police or city hall when agents discovered on Sunday that their main terror suspect in the Manhattan bombing a night earlier was a resident of their community of 130,000 residents.

Why was Elizabeth a focus of manhunt?

Bollwage said he discovered the investigation was moving into his town via a text message early Sunday through another person. But there was no information as to why Elizabeth was the focus of the manhunt for Rahami.

Bollwage, who participated in a parade Sunday morning, said the Elizabeth Police Department did not have any information or contact with the FBI.

City leaders didn't learn the suspect's identity until  it was announced early Monday morning in the national news, he added. 

Learned Rahami was a suspect on social media

"The first time we learned the suspect's name from Elizabeth was early Monday morning," said Bollwage.

"Whenever the NYPD and FBI blasted his picture on social media is when the local police and I learned who the suspect was, and also that name rang a bell because of litigation that occurred in our city four to six years ago."

Rahami, 28, was taken into custody on Monday after a shootout with police officers in Linden, which is just outside Elizabeth.

Local cops informed 'as soon as we can' 

An Elizabeth, New Jersey official connected with the police department confirmed to Circa that the local police were not informed on Sunday, when FBI officials confirmed through fingerprints that Rahami was a suspect. The official spoke on background, as they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

FBI Special Agent Robert Reilly, who has been closely involved in the case, said: "We involve local law enforcement as soon as we can."

Homeless man found pipe bombs

"This was a fast-breaking national security bomb investigation, and we do our best to advise local officials of the investigation in a timely manner," Reilly said 

On Sunday night, Lee Parker, a homeless man, found a backpack on top of a trashcan at approximately 9:30 p.m. at the Elizabeth train station. When Parker opened the bag he discovered a device with wires.

He later told CNN that he knew something was wrong. He contacted the local Elizabeth police, who discovered the bag contained five pipe bombs. 

Lucky the bag was found

"We didn't know Sunday who the suspect was and law enforcement wasn't looking for anything unusual then," said Bollwage, who added that it was luck that the bag was found and no one was injured. 

The FBI on Sunday also arrested five other people. It is not certain if these individuals are still being questioned by the FBI, or if they are involved with Rahami.

FBI Special Agent Kelly Langmesser, a spokeswoman for the agency in New York City, said she could not comment on those five individuals.

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