NEW YORK — Investigators probing bomb blasts in New Jersey and New York believe they’ve identified two men who walked off with a bag abandoned by the bomber on a street as Egyptian tourists.
Police began looking for the men after they were seen in security video handling a bag prosecutors say was used by bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami to conceal an explosive that failed to detonate in Manhattan.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Sept. 28 the two men have since returned home to Egypt. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. investigators have notified Egyptian authorities they want to question the men.
“They’re not in any jeopardy of being arrested,” Jim Watters, Chief of the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Unit, said last week. “We have no reason to believe they’re connected.”
Rahami has been accused of detonating a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town and a pressure cooker bomb in New York on Sept. 17. No one was injured in the Jersey blast, and 31 people were injured in the New York blast.
Surveillance video shows Rahami rolling a suitcase down a Manhattan street, then abandoning it on the sidewalk where that unexploded device was found, authorities said.
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, police said.
“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 has been hospitalized since he was caught following a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, last week, days after the bombings.
Officials on Sept. 27 said he remained unconscious. He has not made an initial court appearance, and his American Civil Liberties Union lawyers declined to comment.