The alleged perpetrator of Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York planned it for weeks, according to police, and appeared to “have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that Isis has put on its social media channels”.
Sayfullo Saipov, the suspected driver of a pick-up truck that ploughed through pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in lower Manhattan, had never been investigated by either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the New York police intelligence unit, John Miller, deputy commissioner of the NYPD, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“But it appears he will have some connectivity to individuals who were the subject of investigations,” he said. The attack, which police described as an isolated incident, killed eight people.
Mr Miller said that investigators recovered notes handwritten in Arabic near the rental truck that Mr Saipov — who was shot by police and is in custody — is suspected of driving. “The gist of the notes was that the Islamic State would endure forever,” Mr Miller said.
“He did this in the name of Isis,” he added.
It was not clear when the 29-year-old Uzbek national, who had entered the country in 2010, was radicalised, Mr Miller said. He said that authorities were interviewing family members, friends and associates of Mr Saipov, but could not offer further details as they investigate the deadliest attack in New York since September 11 2001. President Donald Trump told reporters he would “certainly consider” sending Mr Saipov to Guantánamo Bay.
Police said that the rental truck with a Home Depot logo on the side struck several people as it entered a bike and jogging path that runs nearly the entire western length of Manhattan, about eight blocks north of Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, at 3.05pm local time. The truck continued south until it hit a school bus, after which the driver got out, armed with a paintball gun and a pellet gun.
The driver shouted “God is great” in Arabic, police said, and was then shot in the abdomen by a nearby duty officer and taken to hospital. Mr Miller noted that in the wake of such attacks, police often see a rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims. “This isn’t about Islam, it’s not about what mosque he attends — there are hundreds of thousands of law abiding Muslims in New York City who are adversely affected by things like this,” he said. “Anybody behind those will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Uber confirmed late on Tuesday that the suspect was one of its drivers. The ride-hailing service said Mr Saipov had passed a background check to become a driver. It was offering its full assistance to law officials and was reviewing the driver’s history with the company.
Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the Fire Department of New York, said that there were 20 victims of the attack. Six were pronounced dead at the scene, while two more died at the hospital. Of the eight dead, five were Argentines in town to celebrate their 30th reunion as students of the Polytechnic College of Rosario north of Buenos Aires. Another victim was Belgian and the other two were Americans.
The incident came ahead of the city’s annual Halloween parade, which drew thousands of people to Lower Manhattan on Tuesday night. There was a heavy police presence with additional officers on duty around the city, including heavy weapons teams and vehicles blocking the parade route. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo — both Democrats who have a frosty relationship — led the parade in a sign of unity.
At the press conference, Mr de Blasio said that the New York City Marathon will continue as planned on Sunday, with additional security measures in place to protect the 50,000 runners and 2m spectators who come out to watch the race in all five boroughs.
“Do what you do best,” the mayor said. “Be New Yorkers, be strong, be proud, be resilient — show the whole world right now that we will not be moved by terror.”