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NYC, N.J. bombing suspect Ahmad Rahimi pleads not guilty to attempted murder

ELIZABETH, N.J.- The man accused of setting off bombs in New Jersey and New York, injuring more than 30 people, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, 28, made his first in-person court appearance Tuesday to face charges he tried to kill police officers before they captured him Sept. 19 outside a bar in Linden, New Jersey.

An attorney previously entered not-guilty pleas when the Afghan-born U.S. citizen was hospitalized with gunshot wounds from the shootout.

He remains held on $5.2 million bail.  

He is accused of detonating a pipe bomb along the route of a scheduled Marine Corps charity race in the New Jersey shore town of Seaside Park and a pressure cooker bomb in New York City on Sept. 17. No one was injured in the New Jersey blast, and 31 people were hurt in the New York blast. A second pressure cooker bomb did not explode.  

During a video court appearance on Oct. 13, he was read his rights by Judge Regina Caulfield and answered “yes” in a faint voice to a series of questions.

On the night of the bombing, investigators said a car left Rahami’s home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, drove through the Lincoln Tunnel and arrived in Manhattan around 6:30 p.m. Surveillance video apparently shows Rahami walking down 23rd Street about 37 minutes before a blast ripped through the block.  A short time later, he allegedly turned up on 27th Street where an unexploded pressure cooker bomb was found.  

When he was arrested, Rahami was carrying a journal with handwritten praise for Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. The journal also contained references to martyrdom, pipe bombs and pressure cooker bombs.

Rahami allegedly wrote: “[God willing,] the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gunshots to your police. Death to your oppression.”    

While officials say Rahami traveled to Afghanistan multiple times, and at least once to Pakistan, it’s not clear at all what exactly he did while in those places. An Afghan official told CBS News that during Rahami’s last trip there, in 2014, he is believed to have traveled over land from Pakistan, as there is no record of him having entered through Afghanistan’s airports.

New Jersey state Rep. Albio Sires said Rahami called his office in 2014 seeking help getting his wife a U.S. visa because her Pakistani passport was expired.

Sires said his office wrote a letter to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan to check on the status of the case and that the woman eventually received a visa. He says he doesn’t know if she ever came to the country and the FBI didn’t answer when asked on Monday.  

Rahami wasn’t on any terror or no-fly watch lists, though he had been interviewed for immigration purposes traveling between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Rahami and his family lived above their restaurant - called First American Fried Chicken - in Elizabeth, N.J. and the family has clashed with the city over closing times and noise complaints, which the Rahamis said in a lawsuit were tinged with anti-Muslim sentiment.

The lawsuit was terminated in 2012 because one of Rahami’s brothers had pleaded guilty to blocking police from enforcing closing hours at the restaurant.

A childhood friend, Flee Jones, said Rahami had become more religious after returning from a trip to Afghanistan several years ago. Still, some of the family restaurant’s customers said Rahami was more likely to talk about his interest in cars than to mention faith.