The mosque attended by New York City bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami has ties to a fundamentalist Islamist group which has seen its name surface in news coverage of at least three recent terrorism cases.
Rahami, 28, attended the Muslim Community of New Jersey in Fords, according to various news reports.
Asif Hirani is the imam at the mosque and also serves as an official with the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), an umbrella group that espouses a deeply conservative version of Islam and has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and a radical Pakistani political group called Jamaat-e-Islami.
The Clarion Project, which tracks extremist Islamic groups, first reported Rahami’s mosque’s links to ICNA. As Clarion Project analyst Ryan Mauro notes, there is no evidence that the Muslim Community of New Jersey or Hirani espouse or excuse radical views.
But ties to ICNA have bubbled up in at least three recent terrorism incidents, one of which, as with Rahami, involved a plot to use pressure cookers in an attack in New York City. Rahami pressure cookers to make three separate bombs, one of which exploded in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood late Saturday. Twenty-nine people were injured.
Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, was arrested in Linden, N.J. on Monday after a gunfight with police.
As The Daily Caller reported last year, the family of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook had ties to ICNA.
Farook’s mother, who was at one point considered a person of interest in the federal investigation into the attack, was presented an award by ICNA’s Sister’s Wing. (RELATED: Shooter’s Mother Active In US Branch Of Pro-Caliphate Islamic Group)
A 2010 handbook given to ICNA’s Sister’s Wing states that the organization’s goal is to create “a united Islamic state, governed by an elected khalifah (caliph) in accordance with the laws of shari’ah (sharia).”
And a would-be jihadi named Noelle Velentzas also had links to ICNA before she was arrested last year for plotting with a friend of hers to explode bombs built out of pressure cookers.
Velentzas and her accomplice were inspired by al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Velentzas lived in an ICNA homeless shelter in Jamaica, N.Y., a neighborhood in Queens.
As The Daily Caller reported last year, Velentzas spoke at an April 27, 2013, ICNA Relief event held in Queens. (RELATED: One Of The Women Who Plotted NYC Attack Had Ties To U.S. Islamic Group)
She also gave a presentation at a 2012 ICNA event which was also attended by Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, one of only two Muslims in Congress.
ICNA ties also surfaced in a terrorism case that unfolded last month. The FBI arrested a former ICNA employee named Erick Jamal Hendricks and charged him with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS.
ICNA’s links to extremist elements go back much further. Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki spoke at an ICNA event held in Baltimore in 2002, nine years before he would be killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
In 2009, five American students who all attended an ICNA mosque in Alexandria, Va. were arrested in Pakistan after they allegedly plotted an attack on American troops in Afghanistan.
Though Rahami was born in Afghanistan (and came to the U.S. when he was seven years old), he has ties to Pakistan through his wife.
According to The Telegraph, he spent time in Quetta, Pakistan in 2011. And he stayed another 11 months in Pakistan in 2013 and 2014.
Rahami’s wife and mother both left the U.S. in recent weeks.
A friend of Rahami’s who attends the Muslim Community of New Jersey mosque said he last saw Rahami about two weeks ago at the mosque.
“I haven’t talked to him in a while. I’ve seen him a couple of times at mosque. We pray every Friday,” Javid Barakzai told TIME. Rahami is reported to have attended prayers inconsistently, according to the magazine.