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Terror Timeline: The NY/NJ Bombings, From First Blast to Arrest

The 49 hours from an explosion in Seaside Park, New Jersey to the shooting and arrest of suspect Ahmad Rahami.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (2-R) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (3-R) stand in front of a mangled dumpster while touring the site of an explosion that occurred in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York on Sept. 18, 2016.JUSTIN LANE / AFP - Getty Images

Forty-nine hours elapsed between an explosion in a New Jersey town on Saturday morning and the apprehension of the suspect linked to that bombing and another in Manhattan. The following timeline shows how investigators quickly used evidence from cameras and explosive devices to identify and apprehend Ahmad Rahami, who was found sleeping in the doorway of a New Jersey bar on Monday morning.


9:35 a.m. – An explosive device in a garbage can along the route of a 5K run to benefit military soldiers in Seaside Park, New Jersey detonates. No one is reported injured. It is later determined that one of three pipe bombs in a backpack exploded.

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11:22 a.m. – NBC News reports that “some type of explosion occurred” at the start of the 5K race.

8:30 p.m. – Officers from the NYPD’s 10th precinct witness a powerful explosion on West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of midtown Manhattan. The blast blows a dumpster 150 feet down the street and shatters windows a block away. It was later determined that 29 bystanders were injured, though none critically.

8:43 p.m. – The NYPD closes West 23rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

8:58 p.m. – An NYPD spokesman tweets that police are “responding to a report of an explosion” at West 23rd Street.

9:10 p.m. – At a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reports what no news outlets or law enforcement had yet: that a "bomb" went off in New York City.

9:11 - 9:40 p.m. – The NYPD’s counterterrorism unit, its K-9 teams and the New York City Office of Emergency Management all report that they are responding to the West 23rd Street explosion.

9:45 p.m. – Facebook activates its Safety Check function for New Yorkers.

10:17 p.m. – The ATF’s New York Arson & Explosives Task Force responds to the West 23rd Street explosion.

Image: Explosion in Manhattan
A New York City Police emergency services officer and his dog check a garbage can close to the scene.JASON SZENES / EPA

10:30 p.m. – A White House official tells reporters that President Barack Obama has been briefed on the New York City explosion.

10:30 p.m. – Most major subway service through midtown Manhattan is shut down due to police activity.

Image: Explosion Reported in Chelsea Neighborhood of New York City
Police keep watch at a subway entrance close to the scene.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

11:00 - 11:30 p.m. – A National Public Radio editor who lives in the area discovers a second, unexploded device several blocks from the blast site, on West 27th Street. The device appears to be a rigged “pressure cooker” with wires coming out of it, a cell phone, and black tape.

11:15 p.m. – The NYPD reports 29 injured, one serious.

11:20 p.m. – New York City authorities announce that the explosion was an “intentional act,” and that no suspects have yet been identified.

11:05 p.m. – All New York City subway service through midtown Manhattan is restored.

11:26 p.m. – The NYPD reports that the department’s bomb squad and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force were activated in the wake of the blast.

11:27 p.m. – The NYPD tweets “At the current moment the cause of the explosion has not been determined.”

Arriving in New York City late Saturday night, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tells reporters, "I think it's always wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions, because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened.”


12:35 a.m. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo releases a statement saying that "Whoever placed these bombs we will find and they will be brought to justice, period. And they will be punished."

2:25 a.m. – The device from the West 27th Street location is taken to an NYPD firing range in the Bronx.

10:45 a.m. – Cuomo announces the addition of 1,000 New York State Police to the probe.

12:05 p.m. – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio describes the West 23rd Street explosion as a “bombing” at a midday press conference.

12:30 p.m. – The NYPD warns New Yorkers that they will “see more heavy weapons teams” and additional bag checks in city subway stations.

Crime scene investigators work at the scene of Saturday's explosion in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, in New York, on Sept. 18, 2016Craig Ruttle / AP

12:58 p.m. – Law enforcement sources tell NBC that authorities have surveillance video of a man placing an object in a dumpster at the West 23rd Street location, followed later by the explosion.

1:45 p.m. – Sources confirm to NBC that an image of a rigged pressure cooker found at West 27th Street is authentic.

1:43 p.m. – Law enforcement sources tell NBC that investigators are reviewing a manifesto entitled “I Am the NY Bomber.” The Tumblr blog post was later taken down, and the suspected author cleared of any connection to the blasts.

3:55 p.m. – Officials familiar with the investigation tell NBC that old-style flip phones were discovered in all three devices in New York and New Jersey.

4:30 p.m. – Clinton issues a statement condemning the “apparent terrorist attacks.”

7:43 p.m. – The unexploded device from West 27th Street is rendered safe and sent to FBI labs in Quantico, Virginia, an NYPD spokesman says.

8:45 p.m. – Authorities stop a “vehicle of interest” near New York City’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, according to the FBI.

11:48 p.m. – The FBI reports that “no one has been charged with any crime,” following the earlier traffic stop. Five people in the vehicle are released.


1:00 a.m. – A backpack containing explosive devices explodes at 11 West Street near an Elizabeth, New Jersey transit station, though no one was reported injured. Seaside Park Mayor Chris Bollwage says that a bomb squad robot was “cutting into the device when it exploded.” It iss later determined that one of five bomb-like devices discovered in the backpack exploded.

FBI agents work on the roof outside an apartment during an investigation at a building Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Elizabeth, N.J.Mel Evans / AP

5:30 a.m. – Service resumes for NJ Transit and Amtrak commuters on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines, after it had been suspended in the wake of the transit station explosion.

5:53 a.m. – NBC reports that heavily armed FBI agents are massed at 104 Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth, N.J., not far from the site of the transit station explosion.

6:00 a.m. - Officials familiar with the investigation confirm to NBC News that heavily armed FBI agents spotted near a “First American Fried Chicken” restaurant in Elizabeth are involved in the bomb probe.

6:24 a.m. – NBC New York reports that five individuals are being questioned by the FBI.

7:10 a.m. – When asked on a morning show whether the Chelsea blast was an act of terrorism, de Blasio says “it’s definitely leaning in that direction.”

7:20 a.m. – Cuomo says on a morning show that “there may very well be a foreign connection” to the Chelsea explosion.

7:27 a.m. – The NYPD releases a WANTED poster for Ahmad Khan Rahami.

7:30 a.m. – The FBI issues a WANTED poster, warning that Rahami may be “armed and dangerous.” The agency seeks the public’s help in locating Rahami, wanted for questioning in the probe. The FBI reports that Rahami is a 28-year-old U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, born in Afghanistan.

7:30 a.m. – On "Morning Joe," former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton calls the Chelsea explosion “the second terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11.”

7:34 a.m. – NBC reports that the address in Elizabeth, N.J. is “directly related” to Rahami.

8:01 a.m. – Sources tell NBC that Rahami is the man seen in surveillance video on both 23rd Street and 27th Street.

Ahmad Rahami appears in a surveillance video released by New Jersey police.
Ahmad Rahami appears in a surveillance video released by New Jersey police.New Jersey State Police

8:03 a.m. – New York City issues an emergency alert: “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male.”

8:36 a.m. – De Blasio tells MSNBC that capturing Rahami is vital, saying “this individual is the key, getting him in for questioning. I think that’s going to tell us a lot as to whether it was a lone wolf or something bigger.”

9:15 a.m. – Authorities in New York and New Jersey release new images of Rahami, wanted for questioning in the bomb probe, whose last address was in Elizabeth, New Jersey. New Jersey State Police say that Rahami “is believed to be operating a 2003 Blue Honda Civic bearing NJ registration D63EYB.”

10:21 a.m. – Senior law enforcement officials tell NBC News that a fingerprint was left behind by suspect Ahmad Rahami on one of the devices. They said that information obtained from the cell phones as well as surveillance video and other investigation helped lead authorities to Rahami. “He certainly seemed to do virtually nothing to cover his tracks,” a senior law enforcement official tells NBC.

Image: FBI, police and investigators and NYC terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami shot son Elizabeth Ave in Linden, N.J.
Terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami shot and on the ground in Linden, N.J.Ed Murray / NJ Advance Media

10:30 a.m. – Police discover Rahami sleeping in the Merdles Tavern bar doorway in Elizabeth, and try to rouse him. He pulls a handgun and fires one shot at an officer wearing a bullet-proof vest, hitting him in the abdomen. He shoots another officer in the hand before he is shot in the leg and possibly the arm before being captured. Captain James Sarnacki of the Linden Police Department later tells NBC that when he was at the scene, Rahami was “conscious and awake.”

10:47 a.m. – A spokesman for Middlesex Community College tells NBC that Ahmad K. Rahami attended the school as a criminal justice major from 2010 to 2012, but did not graduate. The spokesman reported nothing concerning in Rahami’s school file.

11:03 a.m. – The NYPD Sergeants’ Benevolent Association tweets of an “active shooter” at 500 Elizabeth Avenue and a report that one officer “took a round to his vest.”

11:23 a.m. – Sources tell NBC that Rahami is in custody.

11:34 a.m. – NBC reports that so far there is no indication of any direction from ISIS in the Seaside Park, N.J., Elizabeth, N.J. or Chelsea bombings.

11:56 a.m. – NBC reports that the Rahami family sued the Elizabeth, N.J. Police Department in 2011, alleging discrimination, mistreatment and “selective enforcement” by police at the family restaurant, “First American Fried Chicken.” The suit remains unresolved.

12:09 p.m. – Two senior officials tell NBC that Rahami was not on any U.S. or NYPD terror watch lists.

1:28 p.m. – The NYPD updates its WANTED poster for Rahami to APPREHENDED.

1:30 p.m. – De Blasio says that “we have every reason to believe that this was an act of terror.”

1:35 p.m. – FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bill Sweeney reports nobody in the car that was stopped near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has been arrested,” but that authorities have “directly linked Rahami to devices in New York and New Jersey on Saturday.”

1:40 p.m. – Cuomo tells MSNBC that “there were people on the videotape with Rahami … there were other people accompanying him.”

1:45 p.m. – De Blasio says that “there is no other individual we’re looking for” in the ongoing tri-state area bomb investigation.