Obama: "We do not and never will give in to fear"

Last Updated Sep 19, 2016 12:34 PM EDT

President Obama said of the bombings that took place over the weekend in New York and New Jersey that he has been “monitoring the situation closely” and has been briefed by FBI Director James Comey.

“They will never beat us,” the president said of ISIS.  “As Americans, we do not and never will give in to fear. That’s going to be the most important ingredient in defeating those who want to carry out terrorist acts against us.”

Referring to the terrorist group as “ISIL,” the president reasoned that its loss of territory is making it more difficult for them to increase their numbers. “As we take away more of their territory it exposes ISIL as the failed cause that it is, and it helps to undermine their ideology which over time will make it harder for them to recruit inspire people to violence.” ISIS is “trying to hurt innocent people, but they also want to instill fear in all of us and disrupt the way we live, to undermine our values,” Mr. Obama said.  

All Americans “have a role to play as citizens in making sure that we don’t succumb to that fear,” the president said, and he held up the example of “he people of New York and New Jersey. The president has spoken with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, and he told reporters they all had the same message for him.

“Folks around here, they don’t get scared. They’re tough. They’re resilient,” he said. “They go about their business every single day. And that kind of toughness and resoluteness and a recognition that neither individuals nor organizations like ISIL can ultimately undermine our way of life - that’s the kind of strength that makes me so proud to be an American.”

The president, who is in New York for political events and for the United Nations General Assembly, left the details of the investigation to law enforcement but acknowledged that “there is a person of interest that is the focus of the investigation.” He commended first responders for their professionalism and “quick response,” and said “we are extremely fortunate and grateful that no one was killed” in the attacks.

He also told reporters that the government is focusing on the stabbing attack in the mall in Minnesota Saturday and reiterated the belief that there is no connection between that incident and the New York and New Jersey bombings, but it is also being investigated as an act of terrorism. 

A massive manhunt was launched and millions of New York City-area residents were alerted directly after police identified a suspect in connection with the Chelsea bombing that injured 29 people. Hours before the Chelsea explosion, a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners there were to participate in a charity 5K race to benefit Marines and sailors. 

The suspect, 28-year old Ahmad Khan Rahami, a U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, was seen in surveillance videos at the scene of both bombings. He was captured in Linden, New Jersey, after a shootout with police Monday.

During the president’s trip to New York he will also participate in a DSCC roundtable, and then he’ll meet privately with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.