A popular bike path near the World Trade Center in New York City became a scene of terror when a rented truck mowed cyclists and pedestrians mid-afternoon of Tuesday, October 31 at Chambers Street and West Street.
According to witnesses and the police the driver of the truck deliberately drove onto the bicycle path, injuring 12 people and killing 8. After the act he exited the truck, screaming and waving firearms. People screamed in fear. Police shot at the driver, wounding him in the stomach. He was taken to the hospital for treatment. It was later learned that his firearms were a paint ball gun and a pellet gun.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a cowardly act of terror. He also said that it was the deadliest terror attack since 9/11 that occurred in New York City.
Sources from law enforcement identified the suspect as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov. They mentioned that the driver shouted “Allahu Akbar” when he got out of the car. It was an Arabic phrase that translates to “God is great.” The 29-year old driver of the rented truck came to the U.S. in 2010. An immigrant from Uzbekistan, he has lived in New Jersey, Florida and Tampa.
A source from the federal enforcement said that they found a note inside the rented vehicle that refers to ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
It was later confirmed that the suspect was a driver for Uber who has been banned from the network although he passed a check on his background. The NYPD and the FBI are digging further into the background of the suspect, although it appears that he does not have an extensive criminal record.
Investigations showed that the truck entered the bike and pedestrian path at Houston Street. It drove along the bicycle path for close to four blocks, hitting pedestrians and cyclists along the way. He later veered into the traffic lanes, hitting one vehicle and a school bus.
Two children and two adults riding the school bus were injured. Six people died at the scene while the other two died in the hospital. At least 12 people suffered from major injuries. Some of the victims were visitors from other countries. Three Belgians were injured while another one was killed. The foreign ministry of Argentina confirmed that some of the dead were from Argentina.
The truck was a rental from Home Depot. The company said that it is cooperating with authorities. It is yet to confirm if the truck was indeed rented by the suspect.
President Trump’s reaction
President Trump received briefing about the incident, according to the White House. The President later posted a Tweet, saying that a deranged and very sick person attacked New York City and that investigations are already being done. He added that after defeating ISIS in the Middle East and other areas, Americans must not allow them to enter or return to the U.S.
The official statement from the White House said that they commend the quick actions of the first responders and offer prayers for the victims and their families. The government said it would give full support to the FBI, New York City Police Department and other agencies that will be investigating the attack closely.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan sent his city’s solidarity with the citizens of the U.S. Earlier this year London also suffered two terrorist car attacks. The oldest Muslim organization in the U.S, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also issued a statement, declaring support to their fellow U.S. citizens.
Federal prosecutors filed charges in the civilian courts Wednesday. They accused Saipov of executing the attack that he has planned for a long time, choosing Halloween as the day to carry out the attack. He was described as an extremely detailed and close follower of the propaganda of ISIS who had planned the attack for about a year.
He entered the courtroom in a wheelchair with his feet and hands in chains. Surrounding him were five guards. Defending him is the chief federal public defender for the Southern District of New York, David E. Patton. A Russian interpreter was provided, although Saipov responded in English when Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses asked if the court proceedings were clear to him.
He understood when the judge read his rights but he remained impassive when the charges against him were read — one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle that led to death of many and one count of providing material support to a terrorist group. The vehicle charge when proven carries the death penalty.
Federal authorities are investigating deeper and tracking other suspects, based on what transpired during Saipov’s questioning. His wife, who is also from Uzbekistan, is said to be cooperating fully with investigators.