New York truck attacker planned rampage for weeks and carried it out in the name of ISIS, police say – Washington Post
NEW YORK — Authorities said Wednesday that the 29-year-old man accused of mowing down pedestrians and cyclists on a Manhattan bike path, killing eight people, plotted for weeks before carrying out the attack in the name of the Islamic State.
Officials identified the suspected attacker as Sayfullo Saipov, a legal permanent resident of the United States who arrived in the country from Uzbekistan in 2010 through a diversity visa program. They said Saipov was influenced by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and its violent tactics after coming to the United States.
Saipov left notes pledging his allegiance to the group, authorities said, though they have not identified any direct connections between Saipov and the organization.
These notes, which included symbols and words, were handwritten in Arabic essentially said “that the Islamic State would endure forever,” John Miller, the deputy New York police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said at a briefing on Wednesday. The Islamic State has urged its followers to use vehicles to carry out attacks.
“He did this in the name of ISIS,” Miller said. “He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.”
The new details came as authorities continued to explore the violent rampage that tore through a stretch of Lower Manhattan and became New York’s deadliest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001.
Police say Saipov climbed into a rental truck on Tuesday afternoon and careened down a bike path along the Hudson River, slamming into numerous people before he was wounded by police and taken into custody. He drove southbound on the path “at a high rate of speed” and appeared to specifically target cyclists and pedestrians, Miller said.
Six people were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at area hospitals. Among the dead were five Argentines gathered for a reunion and one Belgian, while the two Americans were from New York City and New Jersey.
The victims of the rampage included seven men and one woman; they ranged in ages from 23 to 48. Twelve more people were injured, some critically, during the carnage. Nine of the injured remained hospitalized on Wednesday, according to Daniel A. Nigro, the New York fire commissioner.
Police on Wednesday offered their first timeline of the attack. Saipov rented a large Home Depot truck in New Jersey at 2:06 p.m. on Tuesday, they said. Using license plate readers and cameras, police tracked his travels into Manhattan and onto the West Side Highway.
He drove onto the bike path at 3:04 p.m., police said. The rampage down the path continued until he collided with a school bus, injuring still more people, at which point he emerged from the truck, according to the police narrative. A stream of 911 calls soon came in reporting the injuries, the bus accident and a man with a gun in the street.
Officer Ryan Nash, at a nearby school for an unrelated call, approached Saipov and shot him in the abdomen. The weapons Saipov were brandishing turned out to be a pellet gun and a paintball gun, police said. Officials praised Nash for his heroism in stopping Saipov, with Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) calling his actions “extraordinary.”
The violent route, which remained a crime scene on Wednesday, was strewn with bodies, wreckage and scattered personal items such as purses, backpacks and shoes, resembling the scenes witnessed in Berlin, London, Barcelona and other places where vehicles have been used for attacks.
Investigators have spoken to Saipov, who remained hospitalized Wednesday, but officials declined to publicly reveal what he said. They also continued to scour his background and life for clues, an effort that included carrying out search warrants and interviewing people who knew him.
Saipov, a legal permanent resident of the United States, came to the country in March 2010 and had lived in Florida, Ohio and New Jersey, according to authorities. He had been an Uber driver without any worrisome safety reports, the app said, and was banned after the attack.
He had never been the subject of an FBI investigation or a New York police intelligence investigation, Miller said. However, Saipov had been known to authorities. According to a law enforcement official familiar with the current investigation, Saipov’s name surfaced during an earlier Homeland Security probe into some of his friends.
Miller seemed to be alluding to that when he said investigators looking into Saipov were trying to determine “how has he touched the subjects of other investigations — what is his connectivity to those people.” Miller compared the investigative effort to building out concentric circles that will show Saipov to “have some connectivity to individuals who were the subject of investigation, though he himself was not.’’
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said authorities believe Saipov was a lone wolf who became “radicalized domestically” while living in the United States.
“The evidence shows . . . that after he came to the United States, is when he started to become informed about ISIS and radical Islamic tactics,” Cuomo said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” earlier Wednesday. “We have no evidence yet of associations or continuing plot or associated plots, and our only evidence to date is that this was an isolated incident that he himself performed.”
Video from the scene of the attack appeared to capture Saipov jumping out of the wrecked vehicle brandishing what appeared to be handguns. Some witnesses said he shouted “Allahu akbar,’’ meaning “God is great’’ in Arabic.
The Islamic State did not immediately claim responsibility for the New York attack, though its supporters cheered what happened, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity. The militant group frequently takes credit for attacks, doing so in some cases where there is little clear indication of its involvement.
The attack may inflame the political debate over immigration and security. President Trump called Saipov an “animal” and said he was considering sending him to Guantanamo Bay.
During remarks Wednesday, Trump called the criminal justice system’s handling of suspects “a joke” and suggested it was too slow and weak, remarks he made just weeks after federal prosecutors secured the conviction of a New Jersey man who last year planted bombs in Manhattan during another attack.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted critically about Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), saying that Saipov had entered the country through a diversity visa lottery program he blamed on the senator. Trump pledged to get rid of that program, seizing on it and Schumer as political targets.
After Trump repeatedly criticized the visa program, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman confirmed Saipov came to the United States with a diversity immigrant visa.
Trump has argued for stricter screening of immigrants, which he said is needed to prevent terrorism, while opponents of his policies have repeatedly gone to court to block his efforts. Uzbekistan was not among the countries named in any version of the president’s travel ban, which largely targeted a number of majority-Muslim countries and would not have kept out anyone behind deadly terrorist attacks in the United States.
Cuomo and de Blasio said Wednesday morning that Trump had not called either of them. The men said they were not bothered because two senior Trump administration officials called them, but they also both expressed umbrage at what they described as attempts to politicize the attack.
“The president’s tweets I think were not helpful,” Cuomo said at the briefing Wednesday. “I don’t think they were factual. I think they tended to point fingers and politicize the situation.”
In the aftermath of the attack, throngs of New Yorkers went out to celebrate Halloween, with many attending the city’s annual parade, which officials extolled as a show of the city’s resilience. Police also said New Yorkers would see a beefed-up law enforcement presence in the coming days.
Cuomo, who described the truck attack as a “failed” effort to scare and terrorize people, reiterated that he felt like responses such as Trump’s were not the right way to react.
“You play into the hands of the terrorists to the extent you disrupt and divide and frighten people in this society,” he said.
As the sun rose over New York on Wednesday, the bike path remained blocked off by police tape between Houston and Chambers streets. Dozens of police officers guarded the perimeter while crime scene investigators wearing white suits slowly searched the length of the path.
At the bike path in New york, two men holding coffee cups approached the line police tape early Wednesday.
“I don’t see what happened,” one said.
“You don’t know what happened? Yesterday. Someone drive a truck into people,” the other said.
“Did people die?”
“Yeah,” said the man. “People died.”
Barrett and Berman reported from Washington. Sarah Kaplan and Monica Hesse in New York and Brian Murphy, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins in Washington contributed to this report.
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