Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 – 12:38 PM
(AFP) The Uzbek who killed eight people in New York acted in the name of the Islamic State group, police confirmed Wednesday, as the US president vowed to scrap the visa program that allowed him to enter the country.
Tuesday’s attack, which mowed down pedestrians and cyclists at high speed on Lower Manhattan’s West Side, was the deadliest attack blamed on terrorism in America’s financial capital since the September 11, 2001 hijackings.
While 29-year-old suspect Sayfullo Saipov had not previously been the subject of an FBI investigation, police confirmed he had planned the attack for weeks.
Saipov, who moved to America legally in March 2010, rented a pickup truck in New Jersey without suspicion, before driving into New York, mounting a bike path and unleashing mayhem as children and their parents prepared to celebrate Halloween.
Five of the dead were Argentines, visiting for a school reunion. A Belgian woman was also killed. Of 12 injured, nine remain in hospital — four in a critical but stable condition. One Argentine, a German and three Belgians, were among the injured.
The suspect was shot in the abdomen by a police officer after he crashed into a school bus and exited his truck, brandishing paintball and pellet guns. He has been interviewed in hospital and remains in custody, police said.
“He did this in the name of ISIS,” John Miller, the head of New York police intelligence and counter-terrorism, told a news conference.
- Animal -
“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,” Miller added.
Vehicle rammings have been a frequent tactic deployed by IS sympathizers in the West, including in Barcelona, London, Stockholm and in Nice, where a Tunisian suicide truck bomber killed 86 people on Bastille Day last year.
Police said it was too early to determine when Saipov may have become radicalized, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it happened after he moved to the United States. He is not a US citizen but a legal permanent resident.
Trump, confronting the worst jihadist-inspired attack of his 10 months in office, denounced Saipov as an “animal” and charged that he had been a point of contact for up to 23 immigrants or would-be immigrants, quipping that he “would certainly consider” sending him to Guantanamo Bay.
The Republican president said that he was “starting the process of terminating” the popular green card lottery, which he said had enabled Saipov to enter the country.
“We have to do what’s right to protect our citizens,” the Republican president told reporters. “We will get rid of this lottery program as soon as possible.”
The 1990 program awards US permanent resident visas to around 50,000 applicants around the world each year, opening the door as well for members of their wider families to follow them, so-called chain migration.
Trump has already slashed the country’s annual refugee intake by more than 50 percent, tightened visa issuance around the world and attempted to ban travelers from 11 countries, most of them with Muslim-majority populations, but not Uzbekistan.
“We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” the president said.
Saipov lived in Florida and Ohio, before moving to Paterson, a former industrial hub in New Jersey about 20 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of New York, where he lived with his wife and three children. The truck was rented in New Jersey.
- ‘Scary’ -
Neighbors in the working-class, immigrant community reacted with shock and horror on Wednesday, saying that they knew little about the man who kept to himself.
“It’s a very quiet neighborhood. We leave our doors unlocked. We thought we were pretty safe, but to know that someone like that lives down the street is scary,” said Kimberly Perez, 20, who lives across the street.
In New York, leaders vowed that the annual marathon would go ahead as planned on Sunday. Police said the event, which attracts more than 50,000 runners and 2.5 million spectators, would be the most protected ever.
“We will not be cowed, we will not be thrown off by anything,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
While officials say preliminary evidence suggests Saipov acted alone and was not part of a wider plot, Cuomo has drastically stepped up security at airports, tunnels and Penn Station, which he called the busiest rail hub in the hemisphere.
Uzbekistan, a majority Muslim country that borders Afghanistan and formerly part of the Soviet Union, is a landlocked country racked with poverty, corruption and a stifling authoritarian regime.
In less than a year, three other men with Uzbek links have been blamed for a deadly nightclub shooting in Istanbul, a Saint Petersburg metro bombing and Stockholm attack.
In March 2015, two Uzbeks and a Kazakh living in New York were arrested on charges of supporting IS. One of them, who threatened former president Barack Obama, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week.
© Agence France-Presse
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 – 3:55 PM
(AFP) A pickup driver killed eight people in New York on Tuesday, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians, before striking a school bus in what officials branded a “cowardly act of terror.”
Eleven others were seriously injured in the broad daylight assault and first deadly terror-related attack in America’s financial and entertainment capital since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings brought down the Twin Towers.
President Donald Trump, who has curbed the number of migrants entering the United States, swiftly declared that the US “must not” allow Islamic State jihadists to “return, or enter, our country after defeating them” overseas.
The truck driver struck just blocks from the 9/11 Memorial, on the West Side of Lower Manhattan, and close to schools and a park at 3:05pm (1905 GMT) as children and their parents geared up to celebrate Halloween.
Trump decried him as “very sick” and a “deranged person.” Television networks identified the 29-year-old suspect as an Uzbek citizen living in Florida. He was shot by an officer in the abdomen and taken into custody.
Police said he drove a rented Home Depot pickup down a bike and pedestrian lane, plowing into people on foot and bicycles before colliding with a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.
The suspect stepped out of the vehicle, brandishing two apparent handguns, before being shot in the abdomen by a police officer, police said.
A paintball gun and pellet gun were recovered at the scene, police said.
“This was an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Police said eight people were killed, six of them men who died on the spot, and two others pronounced dead in hospital. Eleven other people were taken to hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, officials said.
Belgium said one of its nationals was among the victims.
- ‘Horrible tragedy’ -
It was the city’s first terror incident since a pipe bomb exploded in September 2016 in Chelsea, lightly wounding 31 people. An American of Afghan descent, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, was convicted of terrorism on October 16 in relation with the attack.
Heavily armed police reinforcements were stepped up across the city of 8.5 million in the wake of that attack. Home to Wall Street, Broadway and one of the biggest tourist draws in the United States, it frequently goes on high alert.
A Halloween parade will go ahead as planned, proving that the city would not bow to threats, officials said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was appalled by the attack and that Britain stood with New York. “Together we will defeat the evil of terrorism,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed solidarity. “Our fight for freedom unites us more than ever,” he tweeted.
While details were preliminary and the investigation still underway, the mayor said the suspect appeared to have been a lone wolf and not part of a wider plot.
US media said the suspect shouted “Allahu akbar” and police chief James O’Neill confirmed that he made a statement when he exited the vehicle.
“If you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on. So that along with the statement has enabled us to label this a terrorist event,” he said.
Television networks named him as Sayfullo Saipov, of Tampa, Florida. According to registry site WhitePages, a 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov has been living in Tampa since June 2011, and had other addresses registered in Ohio.
He was listed as having had several traffic-related minor violations.
In New York, police officers and ambulances swamped the area, in front of a park and next to a school as sirens wailed continuously and helicopters roared through the sky.
Worried parents gathered outside a public elementary school that had closed, waiting to see if they could collect children who stayed after the end of the classes for extracurricular lessons and activities.
- ‘Feel the pain’ -
John Williams, 22, on his way to a park at the time, said he did not witness the shooting, but arrived 30 seconds afterward.
“There was a smell of gunshots,” he told AFP. “There was a man lying on the ground. It looked as if he’d been shot.”
State Governor Andrew Cuomo said the city was a “target” as an “international symbol of freedom and democracy.”
“We’ve lived with this before, we’ve felt the pain before. We feel the pain today. But we go forward together,” he added.
A witness who gave his name only as Frank told local television network NY1 that he saw a man running around an intersection, heard five to six gunshots and saw “about 100 cops” flood into the street.
“When the cops shot him, everybody started running away and it got a little bit crazy right there. So when I tried to look again, the guy was already down,” the witness said.
Tuesday’s attack came five months after a US Navy veteran plowed a car into pedestrians in Times Square, killing an 18-year-old woman from Michigan and injuring 22 other people on May 18 in what de Blasio said was not an act of terror.
Previously, the most serious security breach in New York since Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant, plant a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010.
His explosive device failed to detonate and he was arrested shortly after boarding a flight to the Middle East. He pleaded guilty and said he was aiming to avenge deaths from US missiles fired from drones operating over Pakistan.
He was sentenced to life behind bars.
© Agence France-Presse