New York City car ramming suspect Sayfullo Saipov.
(photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
NEW YORK – 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 Sept. 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack.
Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. Belgium’s foreign minister said a Belgian citizen was also among those killed.
Saipov allegedly used a pickup truck rented from a New Jersey Home Depot Inc 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 paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen.
Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a onetime industrial hub about 40 km 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 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where other suspects including alleged Sept. 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 radicalized while living in the United States.
The assumption that Saipov acted alone enabled routine life to continue in most of New York City on Wednesday, including the workings of Jewish and Israeli institutions throughout the city.
With heightened police patrols throughout the city and calls for citizens to be cautious, schools and synagogues throughout opened as usual.
Security officers in Israeli missions, Jewish organizations, and educational institutions throughout the country were told to be alert and vigilant.
At several points in Manhattan, snipers were deployed on rooftops, and both by NYPD and the New York State Police presence was evident on bridges and in tunnels around the city. A number of streets in the southwestern part of Manhattan, in the Tribeca region where the attack was carried out, were still blocked for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
NYPD officials said they were prepared for the New York Marathon to be held this Sunday. 51,000 runners are registered for the race, and it is expected to attract about 2.5 million viewers. Every year the marathon attracts runners from Israel, who arrive on their own, as well as a group of 100 runners from UJA Federation of New York.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the marathon.