Text Size:
Updated On: Monday, 16 September 2019

NY Terror Suspect Questioned About Motive

Content by: Voice of America

Authorities in New York have started questioning the driver of a rented pickup truck who mowed down people on a busy bike path Tuesday, attempting to learn his motive for the deadliest terrorist incident in the city since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Officials linked the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant who came to the United States in 2010, to social media accounts that contain Islamic State-related material. News reports said that a note was found at the scene of the attack in which he claimed allegiance to the jihadist group. IS has not officially claimed responsibility.

Saipov was shot in the abdomen by a New York policeman in the lower Manhattan area of the city, but survived. Authorities questioned him before he underwent surgery Tuesday evening.

This undated photo provided by St. Charles County Department of Corrections via KMOV shows the Sayfullo Saipov.This undated photo provided by St. Charles County Department of Corrections via KMOV shows the Sayfullo Saipov.

At least eight people were killed and 11 others injured in the attack, described by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as "a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN, "He's a depraved coward is what he is, and he was associated with ISIS, and he was radicalized domestically."

Trump reacts

U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday night ordered the country's Homeland Security agency "to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program," about immigration into the U.S. "Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!"

On Wednesday, Trump, in a Twitter remark, blamed Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York for allowing "the terrorist" into the U.S., as part of "what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based."


Schumer accused Trump of "politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy." Schumer said he has "always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America."

The immigration lottery was part of 1990 U.S. legislation that Schumer, then a member of the House of Representatives, sponsored along with 25 other Democrats and six Republicans.

Among those killed were five Argentine nationals who were in New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, as well as a Belgian.

Multiple bikes are crushed along a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.Multiple bikes are crushed along a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.

Vehicular attacks

Tuesday's incident, involving a rented Home Depot truck, was similar to terrorist vehicle attacks that have been carried out in other Western countries in recent years. New America, a nonpartisan research center, says 15 vehicular attacks have been carried out since 2014, killing more than 140 people.

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said around 3:05 p.m. local time Tuesday, the truck entered the bike path, striking riders and pedestrians. The truck also struck a school bus, injuring two adults and two children. The driver then "exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” O’Neill said, with the policeman ending the incident by shooting Saipov. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were later found at the scene.

Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia, said it seems as if the attacker was inspired by IS.

"Islamic State doesn’t claim attacks when the attacker is held in custody and so they probably won’t claim this one," Barton told VOA. "But there’s no question that we’ve seen many attempted attacks in New York and there will be more attempts in the future."


Uzbek reaction

Uzbekistan's president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.

"We express our feelings of full solidarity to the people of the United States of America," Mirziyoyev said in a statement posted on the Uzbekistan Foreign Ministry website.

"We strongly condemn the terror truck attack on the innocent civilians in New York City. Our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families who lost their loved ones," said the Turkistanian American Association of New York and New Jersey, on behalf of the Uzbek community, in a statement sent by email to the Voice of America.

The Cato Institute told VOA only about 40,000 Uzbeks have entered the United States as migrants in the last 20 years, and that of those, only 2 percent arrived as refugees.

Students walk past police line tape on their way to school a day after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path alongside the Hudson River in New York City, Nov. 1, 2017.Students walk past police line tape on their way to school a day after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path alongside the Hudson River in New York City, Nov. 1, 2017.

Witness accounts

For some witnesses, the chaos was reminiscent of images of deadly attacks from across Europe.

"It always seems really distant but then when it’s right next to you, obviously it’s really shocking and disturbing, and you don’t want it to happen to anybody," said Elizabeth Chernobelsky, who witnessed the crime scene.

Others were left in disbelief. College student Jake Saunders, who barely missed a train at a crucial moment, told VOA he considers himself lucky.

"If I had made that train, I would be right where the shooting is, right there, because that was my destination," Saunders said.

Police said the driver shouted "Allahu Akbar,'' Arabic for "God is great," when he exited the truck. But when O'Neill was asked whether the suspect shouted the phrase, the commissioner replied, "Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,'' although O'Neill declined to elaborate.

The New York Police Department said it will increase the number of officers throughout the city "out of an abundance of caution."

Ramon Taylor in New York and Victor Beattie in Washington DC contributed to this report

GET CONNECTED WITH US

Subscribe to our newsletter