Attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov had plotted for weeks before carrying out what is New York’s deadliest terror attack since 9/11.
- Saipov entered the United States through a diversity visa lottery programme
- According to law enforcement, the suspect’s cell phone contained around 90 videos and nearly 4,000 images relating to ISIS propaganda
- An Uzbek national is also being questioned in relation to Wednesday’s attack
Federal authorities said that the 29-year-old man charged with mowing down pedestrians and cyclists on a Manhattan bike path had plotted for weeks before carrying out what is New York’s deadliest terror attack since September 11, 2001,
The attack suspect has been identified as Sayfullo Saipov, a legal permanent resident who arrived in the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010 through a diversity programme. Saipov had previously worked as an Uber driver and had his own trucking company, but had never been the subject of any FBI investigations. His name had only come up during a Homeland Security inquiry into his friends.Saipov appears to have been radicalised only after moving to the States. Handwritten notes in Arabic were found in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, saying that it ‘would endure forever’. ISIS has been known to encourage its followers to employ vehicles in carrying out attacks.
Law enforcement reviewed one of Saipov’s cell phones and found it contained approximately 90 videos and around 4,000 images, many of which appeared to be ISIS-related propaganda.
John Miller, deputy New York police commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism said in a briefing on Wednesday that the attack suspect had followed ‘to a T’ the instructions ISIS releases in its social media channels.
Saipov used a rental truck to target pedestrians and cyclists, specifically choosing to carry out the attack on Halloween as he believed there would be more civilians out. He was wounded and taken into custody by police.
Among the victims were five Argentinians, who had gathered for a reunion, one Belgian, and two Americans. Twelve more were wounded, some critically.President Trump has been vocal in his criticism of the criminal justice system’s treatment of suspects, suggesting it was weak. He has since pledged to do away with the diversity visa lottery programme that had allowed Saipov entry to the States.
Trump has repeatedly called for tighter screening of immigrants, which he argues is strictly necessary in order to prevent terror attacks. Uzbekistan, however, was not among the countries specified in any of his travel bans, which included several Muslim-majority nations.
In a tweet late Wednesday night, the president also called for the death penalty for the attack suspect:
According to law enforcement sources, another Uzbek national is also being questioned. The individual identified as Mukhammadzoir Kadirov may have information in relation to the attack and could be an associate of Saipov.
Police have said that New York would see an increased law enforcement presence in the coming days.