Police have arrested a man who allegedly drove a pickup truck along a busy bicycle lane, killing eight people. The terror strike has claimed the lives of five Argentinean tourists as well as one German citizen.
Eight people died and 12 others were seriously injured on Tuesday after a man driving a pickup truck plowed through people along a busy bicycle lane in New York City before hitting a school bus, officials said.
The suspect, a 29-year-old man identified as Sayfullo Saipov, had been planning the attack “for a number of weeks,” New York Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence John Miller said at a press conference on Wednesday morning.
Miller added that the Saipov carried out the attack “in the name of ISIS,” using an acronym for the militant “Islamic State” (IS) group, as indicated by notes found in the truck.
“Multiple knives” were also recovered from the vehicle as well as imitation guns.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the suspect was a “depraved coward” who tried to create terror.
The incident occurred in lower Manhattan shortly after 3 p.m. local time (1900 UTC) near West Side Highway and Chambers Street. The driver was shot and then taken into custody by police. Police opened fire after he exited the rental truck armed with a paintball gun and a pellet gun. He is expected to survive.
Police officials on Wednesday confirmed that the suspect was a legal permanent resident who came to the US from Uzbekistan in March 2010. He had not been the subject of either a police investigation or an FBI investigation.
Notorious tabloid New York Post said he was an Uber driver, which was later confirmed by the ride hailing company itself.
Who were the victims?
Five of the victims killed in the attack came from Argentina, the country’s foreign ministry and US officials confirmed. They were part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation.
A German national and two US citizens also died in the attack, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at Wednesday’s press conference. Earlier, Belgium’s foreign minister said a Belgian national was also killed in the attack. It remains unclear whether one of the victims was a dual national.
Of the 12 wounded, four people are in critical but stable condition while five are in serious condition.
One of the survivors suffered two amputations while others sustained “serious head, neck, back and chest trauma, and trauma to arms and legs,” Nigro said.
Two adults and two children traveling in the school bus at the time of the crash were also among the injured.
Act of terror
US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and ordered newly tightened security checks on immigrants be strengthened even further. He indicated the incident was a terror attack linked to IS.
On Wednesday, Trump noted that the attacker entered the country through the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program” and called on lawmakers to “immediately” begin working on scrapping the program. The visa program applies to countries with low rates of immigration to the US.
He also said he will consider sending the suspected attacker to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” the president wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”
Trump also released a statement expressing thanks to the first responders “who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims of this cowardly attack. These brave men and women embody the true American spirit of resilience and courage.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident “an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”
Anonymously quoted police officials told the Associated Press the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar” after exiting the vehicle.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill told journalists that the method of attack and the suspect’s statement enabled officials “to label this a terrorist event.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack, saying there was no evidence of a wider plot.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Homeland Security said it was an “apparent act of terrorism.”
rs, aw, amp/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)