The Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people after using a pick-up truck to mow down cyclists and pedestrians along a bike path “did this in the name of Islamic State”, New York City police have said.
Investigators were at the hospital bedside of 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov yesterday working to extract information about the deadly attack on Tuesday near the World Trade Center memorial that also left 12 people seriously injured.
An official said Saipov was lucid after surgery for wounds suffered when he was shot by police outside his rented Home Depot truck.
US president Donald Trump flagged a tightening of immigration restrictions in the wake of the terrorist attack, calling the suspect an “animal” and declaring he would ask Congress to “immediately” start work to terminate the diversity immigrant visa programme.
Mr Trump claimed the programme was used by the alleged attacker to enter the United States.
John Miller, deputy police commissioner for intelligence, said Saipov left behind notes at the scene hand written in Arabic with symbols and words that essentially said Islamic State (IS) “would endure forever”.
“It appears that Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks,” he said.
“He did this in the name of IS.”
IS has been exhorting followers online to use vehicles or other close-at-hand means of killing people in their home countries. The UK, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.
“He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that IS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to its followers on how to carry out such an attack,” Mr Miller said. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Saipov a “depraved coward”.
“He was radicalised domestically,” he said on CNN. “It’s not the first time. It’s a global phenomenon now.”
Court records showed Saipov was cited several times in Nebraska and Iowa for trucking violations.
Saipov had hurtled down the bike path on West Street, running down cyclists and pedestrians before crashing into a school bus. He was shot in the stomach after he jumped out of the vehicle brandishing air guns and yelling “God is great!” in Arabic.
Five of those killed have been named as friends from Argentina who had travelled to New York as part of a larger group celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from high school.
The Argentine foreign ministry named them as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi, all in their late 40s. A sixth friend, Martin Ludovico Marro, was injured.
A Belgian woman was also among the dead.
Nine people remained hospitalised in serious or critical condition, with injuries that included lost limbs and head, chest and neck wounds.
On the morning after the bloodshed, city leaders vowed New York would be not intimidated and they commended New Yorkers for going ahead with Halloween festivities on Tuesday night.
They also said Sunday’s New York City Marathon, with 50,000 participants and some two million spectators anticipated, will go on as scheduled.
New York City’s police commissioner James O’Neill said the officer who shot Saipov was too modest to admit he was a hero.
Officer Ryan Nash, 28, was on a routine call at a nearby school when he and his partner were told there had been an accident.
They raced outside and encountered Saipov, with officer Nash firing the shot that hit the terrorist.