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Eight Killed and Nearly A Dozen Injured In New York City Terror Attack

Manhattan Terror Attack

Late yesterday afternoon, eight people were killed and nearly a dozen more injured when a truck driven by an Uzbeki immigrant to the United States was used in a what police and Federal authorities nearly immediately labeled as an act of terror:

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Almost immediately, as investigators began to look into Mr. Saipov’s history, it became clear that he had been on the radar of federal authorities. Three officials said he had come to the federal authorities’ attention as a result of an unrelated investigation, but it was not clear whether that was because he was a friend, an associate or a family member of someone under scrutiny or because he himself had been the focus of an investigation.

Over the last two years, a terrorism investigation by the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn resulted in charges against five men from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan of providing material support to ISIS. Several of the men have pleaded guilty. It is unclear whether Mr. Saipov was connected with that investigation.

Martin Feely, a spokesman for the New York F.B.I. office, declined to comment on whether Mr. Saipov was known to the bureau.

F.B.I. agents were expected to search Mr. Saipov’s home in Paterson, N.J., and his car on Tuesday night, a law enforcement official said. A phone, which was recovered at the scene of the attack, also would be searched, another official said.

The attack unfolded as nearby schools were letting out on a Halloween afternoon. It ended five blocks north of the World Trade Center. The driver left a roughly mile-long crime scene: a tree-lined bike path strewn with bodies, mangled bicycles and bicycle parts, from wheels twisted like pretzels to a dislodged seat.

Mr. Saipov, a slim, bearded man, was seen in videos running through traffic after the attack with a paintball gun in one hand and a pellet gun in the other. Six people died at the scene and two others died at a hospital, officials said. The authorities credited the officer who shot him with saving lives.

“He was Johnny-on-the-spot and he takes the guy down,” a city official said

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility or another type of statement from ISIS or any other overseas terror group, although there are reports that the suspect did leave a note inside the truck that made reference to ISIS and indicated that the attack was at least motivated or inspired by ISIS in particular. Additionally, initial reports are saying that the early stages of the investigation have shown that he did review jihadist material from ISIS and other groups online. There’s also apparently no indication that he traveled outside the United States at any time in the past several years, at least not to areas of the world where ISIS is in control such as Iraq or Syria. It also doesn’t appear that he had any accomplices and that he had driven to the Home Depot in New Jersey where he rented the truck, left his car in the parking lot there and drove into the city where he committed the attack.

Based on all that, the current presumption is that we’re looking at yet another self-radicalized “lone wolf” style terror attack. While this could change if the investigation reveals that something to indicate that he had been in direct contact with ISIS prior to the attack if it’s true then it would be consistent with a style of attack that has been all too common over the past several years. Last summer, for example, a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France and killing dozens and injuring dozens more. More recently, there has been a spate of these types of attacks in London, with one in March resulting in three deaths on a bridge within sight of Parliament and another occurring on a June night near London Bridge. In between, the United Kingdom also dealt with a bombing at a concert in Manchester that killed more than twenty people and what appears to have been a copycat attack with a vehicle outside a mosque in London by a person who had previously voiced strongly anti-Muslim opinions. Elsewhere in Europe, in April five people were killed in an attack in Stockholm when a truck struck a crowd in a tourist area of the city. Most recently, thirteen people were killed and dozens injured when a truck rammed into a crowd at a popular tourist spot in Madrid, Spain. With the exception of the attack on the mosque, all of those attacks were committed by men who appear to have been self-radicalized by things they either read or viewed online and inspired by ISIS and its advice several years ago to use vehicles as weapons in attacks of this type.

So far at least, it doesn’t appear that the suspect in this attack was on any kind of FBI or other law enforcement agency watch list and no indication in advance of any attacks. As noted in the article above, he came to the country in 2010 on an immigrant visa and initially lived in Florida but has also had addresses in Ohio and New Jersey over the past seven years. He also apparently had three children over these years, although it’s unclear if he is currently married or, if he is, where his wife and family are located. Law enforcement has most likely already figured this out and is likely questioning those people in order to determine what was going on behind the scenes with this guy and what if any signs he may have given off regarding radicalization or a shift toward jihadist sympathies. When that part of the investigation is done, we’ll no doubt get a better idea of what caused this person to strike out in the way he did.

As I’ve said before, though, this rash of apparent “lone wolf” attacks appears to be becoming part of a new trend, and one that is both harder to stop and likely to continue regardless of what happens with the war against ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq. Tracking down all of the jihadist sites on the Internet that people like this can access is a near impossible task, as is keeping them shut down since it’s relatively easy to move a website from one server to another in a matter of no more than a few hours at best. What it does demonstrate, though, is that the recent successes we’ve had on the ground against ISIS doesn’t necessarily mean that ISIS is going to disappear. The most recent success in that war, of course, was the capture of Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate just a few years ago. As this event demonstrates, though, winning on the battlefield against ISIS isn’t going to end ISIS-inspired attacks f this type. In fact, it may end up encouraging people like the attacker in New York yesterday to act. How we stop that from happening is something that apparently even the experts can’t seem to figure out.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    When we saw last summer that these mad-driver style attacks were a trend, I wondered how long it would be before we had one on an American street. Unfortunately this likely won’t be the last of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Franklin says:

    I considered saying something snarky about Trump’s campaign bluster here, or maybe about MBunge’s undying faith that Trump will finally *do something* that everyone else has failed to do.

    But then, I might be accused of wanting the President to fail. That’s such an overly general accusation, though. Yes I want him to fail at implementing most of his stated policies, but no I don’t want him to fail at fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the brain capacity to do so, or even the delegation abilities to make it so. I don’t want him to fail, I just know he will.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  3. Mikey says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    When we saw last summer that these mad-driver style attacks were a trend, I wondered how long it would be before we had one on an American street.

    Do you mean one at all, or one potentially connected to ISIS?

    Because we already had one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  4. gVOR08 says:

    How we stop that from happening is something that apparently even the experts can’t seem to figure out.

    How do you stop murder? How do you stop burglary? You do what you can with intelligence, you lock your doors adopt whatever passive defenses make sense, you find, arrest, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators as deterrent. And you recognize that while you do all you can to minimize it, you cannot 100% stop it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. KM says:

    I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t been a thing before now – on a sheer practical level, a car is the easiest method of mass murder you can get your hands on legally. The only thing I can attribute not seeing this before to is a desire by terrorists for mass causalities, destruction and fear. That’s why they like planes, guns and bombs – more death and destruction for your buck and it looks a hell of a lot more intimidating then a car crash. OTOH a car can go virtually anywhere without suspicion and engage in multiple strikes before it’s disabled. You can get them cheap, they ask very few questions and as long as you obey the rules of the road, nobody will suspect you’re a problem until it’s way too late.

    They won’t get the body counts they are used to but the frequency can be upped significantly. For a terrorist with little options, a car is an attractive prospect especially in America – our cities are *designed* for cars in a way European nations aren’t and there’s no real way to restrict them without severely impacting civilian life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    A few hours later, the annual Halloween parade in Greenwich Village took place because New Yorkers are all about “F*ck You, Terrorism!”

    I Heart New York.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  7. michael reynolds says:

    ISIS has lost its caliphate. Now it’s just a bargain basement Al Qaeda. Yes, they can ‘inspire’ random nuts to drive their cars into people, but this is not a winning tactic, this is a weak, last-gasp tactic.

    Unless of course we do their work for them. Last night New Yorkers shrugged this off and attended a Halloween parade just a few hours later. But people in Nebraska and Arkansas and Texas – in towns ISIS doesn’t even know exist – are freaking out, ranting about Muslims and demanding. . . well, they never quite say what it is they’re demanding.

    Pro tip for terrorists: You’re never going to intimidate New Yorkers any more than you’ll intimidate Londoners. If you want to terrify people just yell Allah Akbar in a Kansas mall and watch the panicky rustics shoot each other with their concealed-carry guns.

    Fear of terrorists is in inverse proportion to the likelihood of being a victim. Red state rubes? Terrified. New Yorkers? They take their kids to the Halloween parade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  8. Gustopher says:

    This is one of those things that you can’t stop without making America a much less free place.

    We could work with the ISPs to monitor who goes where on the internet. We could have the FBI get involved in truck rentals. We could restrict people en masse based on their religion.

    None of these are really good things. I thought we actually had the first one done, actually, at least based on Snowden’s claims, so this might be a failure to act on intelligence.

    After the Las Vegas mass shooting, few people on the right made the claim that 58 dead and 500 wounded are the price we pay for freedom. The freedom to own a massive arsenal is a lot less fundamental to our way of life than the freedoms we would have to trample to stop these types of attacks.

    We could put up a few more car barriers at the entrances to bike paths, I suppose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    I think you have to be pretty crazy and weak to just start killing random people. America is not fighting a civil war, despite what the Trump lunatics believe. This is not Beirut in 1983 or Iraq in 2006. The people who commit these acts seem to be utterly bereft and it’s hard in the end to be terrified of any of them. I live in New York and it was three hours before I learned out that this happened. Whereas when Comey was fired somebody texted me minutes after it occurred.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. Gustopher says:

    Also, I predict America will react to demonstrate weakness — curtailing freedoms because of a mosquito bite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  11. Gustopher says:

    I would be ok with restricting ugly beards, though, because this guy has a really ugly beard.

    It won’t do anything to prevent terrorism, or make us safer in any way, but it would make the world a slightly less ugly place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  12. Modulo Myself says:

    @Gustopher:

    Bottom line with guns is that we could ban them all and then seize them, and few lives would change. Guns are stupid weapons, and they are useful only in the hands of the state.

    The same is not true with people. Profiling and surveillance (which the NYPD is conducting against Muslims) can only go so far. No society is free of violence and crime. The most successful police states just integrate violence and crime into the state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  13. Franklin says:

    @Gustopher:

    We could put up a few more car barriers at the entrances to bike paths, I suppose.

    I live in a small city. Occasionally streets are closed off for various events like Octoberfests that the local breweries put on. This year, one of the breweries couldn’t afford the permit because they’re now required to haul in a bunch of concrete barriers to make sure nobody drove through the crowd.

    I don’t know what my point is, except that I guess the terrorists have succeeded in cancelling my beer-drinking festivity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  14. de stijl says:

    @Franklin:

    Any time you can’t drink good beer where and when you want to (within prudence), the terrorists have won.

    Actually, it really means that the local Maude Flanders’ have won. And a fun, full, good life must forever be put on hold until everything is perfect and nothing bad can ever happen – which will never happen.

    I love the (apocryphal?) Ben Franklin quote:

    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. JKB says:

    This Uzbek muslim guy is a total loser. He literally won the lottery. Not only the “Diversity” lottery, but entry into the United States, the greatest country on earth. The land of opportunity. But this loser couldn’t make anything of his good fortune in the United States. Instead he just became resentful and decided to make a futile gesture by killing some people. What a loser.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. wr says:

    @JKB: For once, I’m in total agreement with you. I wish the president were able to say that as well. But it’s more convenient for him to start screaming about keeping out all immigrants because they’re an existential threat — exactly what this kind of attack is meant to provoke.

    This loser deserves our contempt, not our fear. He shouldn’t go to Guantanamo, as Trump hyperventilated about. He should go to Riker’s and get lost in the system forever, just another loser who decided to hurt people because he couldn’t make an impact on the world in any other way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. de stijl says:

    @JKB:

    the United States, the greatest country on earth. The land of opportunity.

    I am American and love my country, and I find this type of commentary really weird.

    As an American, there are many things I love about my country and a few things I dislike.

    Mindless jingoism regurgitated by fools is one of the things I really, really dislike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @de stijl:

    I love the (apocryphal?) Ben Franklin quote:
    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

    Apocryphal, indeed.

    Abe Lincoln:
    The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. michael reynolds says:

    The United States used to be the greatest country on earth. Since November of 2016 we’ve lost that status.

    We are no longer leader of the free world. We are a cautionary tale that autocrats tell about the failure of democracy. We are a laughingstock to our enemies, an object of pity and contempt to our friends. I don’t know how we recover from that. It’s very hard to recover a lost reputation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  20. george says:

    @Mikey:

    Actually I suspect its been happening for quite awhile. I remember reading up about murder charges against someone in Toronto a number of years back – got into a fight outside a bar, then returned in his car and drove over the people (and bystanders) who fought him.

    I suspect the first time a car was used to attack people was within a few years of the first cars coming out.

    Lest anyone think I’m making some kind of equivalency with guns, I’ll point out that cars have a useful purpose outside of running people over … and are more legislated than guns are in America.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mikey:

    I was thinking ISIS-related, but your point is very well taken.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. de stijl says:

    BRB – I have to go buy beer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. loaded says:

    @Neil Hudelson: There’s also been an ISIS-related one:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_State_University_attack

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. de stijl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Apocryphal, indeed.

    In a just world, Franklin should have said it.

    Perhaps in a different timeline in the universe right next door to us, he did say it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. DrDaveT says:

    As I’ve said before, though, this rash of apparent “lone wolf” attacks appears to be becoming part of a new trend

    Yawn.

    When the casualties from “lone wolf” attacks reach 1% of the casualties from random traffic accidents, get back to us. Until then, this is innumerate fear-mongering.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  26. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Me, too. And I don’t even like beer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0