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The FBI believes the two men seen on surveillance video pulling a pressure cooker explosive out of a suitcase the day of the New York bombings are airline employees who are now out of the country, senior law enforcement officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
A dozen fingerprints connected to Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28 — the New Jersey man accused of planting bombs in New York and New Jersey the weekend of Sept. 17 — were found on the device, investigators have said.
The FBI believes the two men were staying in New York over that weekend, the officials said. A senior official who has been briefed on the investigation said they worked as part of a flight crew for an Egyptian airline.
They were identified by comparing the surveillance video with video from security cameras at nearby hotels, which investigators concluded was a match, the officials said.
The FBI believes it knows where the men are — overseas — and is trying to talk to them, said the officials, who repeated that they aren't believed to have had anything to do with the bombing. Instead, they're considered important witnesses and, if they still have it, the FBI wants the suitcase to examine for evidence, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the two men who discovered one of the explosives-filled backpacks in Elizabeth, N.J., before it could go off are enjoying the thanks of grateful members of the community.
Ivan White, who lives on a fixed income, and Lee Parker, who was homeless, spotted the backpack on top of a garbage can on the night of Sept. 17. Recognizing what it was, they immediately went to the police — potentially saving an untold number of lives. The bomb was exploded safely as a police robot was disarming it.
Tuesday night, the Elizabeth City Council gave White and Parker the keys to the city. It was just the latest in a long line of tributes and contributions that have poured for the men, who authorities have described as heroes.
"If Mr. Parker and Mr. White did not advise law enforcement of what they saw when they did, the result could have been tragic," Council President Nelson Gonzalez said.
A GoFundMe page — set up with the goal of raising $10,000, to be divided among White, Parker and the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless — had raised more than $32,000 by Wednesday afternoon.
Donations have allowed Parker to move into a hotel room while the Elizabeth Coalition finds a permanent place for him to live.
"I have a room. I'm in a hotel," Parker told NBC New York. "I'm no longer homeless, thank God, because these wonderful people reached out to me and made my life a little better."
White, meanwhile, said he can't walk down the street without being recognized and thanked.
"I'm very touched and grateful and gratified that I was able to be in a position to do something for others," he said.