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New York City bombing: Two men who took suitcase likely identified, sources tell CBS News

NEW YORK U.S. officials believe they have confirmed the identity of two men who took a suitcase they found on a city street, possibly without realizing a wired pressure cooker they removed from it and left behind could have blown them to bits, sources tell CBS News. 

Officials investigating the bombings in New York and New Jersey have been saying since the beginning of the investigation they were looking for the men. They have stressed the pair were being sought as potential witnesses in the case, not as suspects.

“They’re not in any jeopardy of being arrested,” Jim Watters, chief of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, said on Wednesday. “We have no reason to believe they’re connected.”   

Two unidentified men are seen in an image capture of surveillance video taken in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Sept. 17, 2016.

Two unidentified men are seen in an image capture of surveillance video taken in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Sept. 17, 2016.

FBI

Officials tell CBS News the two men are now believed to be out of the country, and that efforts are being made to contact them. Investigators used a series of videos and surveillance cameras to aid in the identification.

Federal prosecutors have charged Ahmad Khan Rahami with detonating a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town on a Saturday morning and a pressure cooker bomb in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood later that night. Thirty-one people were injured in the New York blast. A second pressure cooker bomb left in Manhattan didn’t explode and is the subject of the latest public plea.

Prosecutors said surveillance video shows Rahami rolling a suitcase down the street, then abandoning it on the sidewalk where that second device was found.

A few minutes later, two men pass by the luggage and appear to admire it, police said. They then remove a pressure cooker from the luggage, leave the pressure cooker on the sidewalk and walk away with the luggage.

“I think they were more interested in the bag, not what they were taking out,” Watters said, adding that they were “very, very lucky” the bomb didn’t explode.

Rahami, 28, was arrested following a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey. He is being held on $5.2 million bail, and is facing both federal and state charges.

In a bloodied journal recovered by investigators, Rahami made references to Osama bin Laden, American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and former Army officer Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting rampage in Ford Hood, Texas, according to a federal complaint.

In one section, the complaint says, Rahami wrote: “Death to your oppression.”