Eight Killed and Nearly A Dozen Injured In New York City 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.