Suspect in lethal New York attack followed plans laid down by Islamic State online, say police
An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City by crashing a truck through a crowd on a bike path followed online plans from Islamic State and left a note saying the militant group would “endure forever,” police said on Wednesday.
Police said they had interviewed Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who is in hospital after an officer shot him, ending the riverfront rampage. They said he appeared to have been planning the attack for weeks and that investigators recovered notes and knives at the scene.
“The gist of the note was that the Islamic State would endure forever,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”
The attack was the deadliest on New York City since September 11, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Centre, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack.
Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.
Saipov allegedly used a pickup truck rented from a New Jersey Home Depot store to run down pedestrians and bicyclists on the path before slamming into the side of a school bus.
He then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paintball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen.
The suspect underwent surgery for gunshot wounds at Bellevue Hospital.
Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40km) northwest of lower Manhattan.
US Senator Lindsey Graham urged authorities to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant, a move that would allow investigators to question the man without him having a lawyer present.
US President Donald Trump said he would be open to transferring Saipov to the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where other suspects including alleged September 11 plotters are held.
“Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that,” Trump told reporters. “We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.”
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said that Saipov had been radicalised while living in the United States.
Most of the 18 Islamic State-inspired attacks carried out in the United States since September 2014 were the work of attackers who developed radical views while living in the United States, said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, research director at George Washington University’s Programme on Extremism.
Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyayev said his government would do all it could to help investigate the “extremely brutal” attack. The predominantly Muslim Central Asian country was once part of the former Soviet Union.
Last week an Uzbekistan citizen living in Brooklyn was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring to support Islamic State.
Saipov had not been the subject of any US investigation, Miller said. He had been in contact with a person who was the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, a US government source said on Wednesday.
Trump, who has pressed for a ban on travellers entering the United States from some predominantly Muslim countries, criticised the US visa system, blaming Democrats including US Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the diversity visa system that admitted Saipov. He said he wanted a “merit based” immigration programme.
“We do not want chain migration, where somebody like him ultimately will be allowed to bring in many, many members of his family,” Trump told reporters.
Schumer shot back at Trump: “Instead of politicising and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, (Trump) should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution, anti-terrorism funding, which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.