Note by NY truck driver claims attack for Islamic State

Uber says suspect was one of its drivers; video shows Sayfullo Saipov waving fake guns upon exiting vehicle; 6 of the dead are foreign nationals

  • A 2016 mugshot of NY terror attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov (CNN via St. Charles County, Mo)
    A 2016 mugshot of NY terror attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov (CNN via St. Charles County, Mo)
  • New footage appears to show NY attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov after exiting his truck on October 31, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)
    New footage appears to show NY attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov after exiting his truck on October 31, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)

A note recovered inside the truck whose driver barreled down a bike path in New York Tuesday, killing eight people, claimed the attack for the Islamic State terror group, CNN reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile Uber confirmed that the suspect was one of its drivers.

The attacker driving the rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial, also seriously injuring 11 people in what the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.”

The driver was shot in the abdomen by police after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting what witnesses said was “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” authorities said. The man underwent surgery and was in critical condition but was expected to survive.

Video footage from the scene appeared to show the attacker running around and waving the fake weapons after exiting the truck.

The attacker was identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek national who came to the US legally in 2010. Officials said Saipov has a Florida driver’s license and may have been staying in New Jersey. A family friend described roots he had in Ohio, where he lived years ago and was a commercial truck driver.

The ride-hailing service Uber released a statement Tuesday night saying Saipov had passed a background check to become an Uber driver. He has now been banned from the Uber app.

The company said it had reached out to law enforcement to provide its full assistance and was “aggressively and quickly reviewing” the suspect’s history with Uber. The company added that it was “horrified by this senseless act of violence.”

The driver barreled along the bike path in a rented Home Depot truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus. The mayhem and the burst of police gunfire set off panic in the neighborhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.

“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.

Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said, “So many police came, and they didn’t know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”

Police closed off streets across the western edge of lower Manhattan along the Hudson River, and officers rushed into the neighborhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.

A police bomb squad scoured the truck but found no explosives.

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. Islamic State has been exhorting its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

The city’s police commissioner, James O’Neill, said a statement the driver made as he got out of the truck and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.

On Twitter, US President Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

Before news of the note broke, Trump railed against Islamic State, tweeting, “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”

He also said he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security “to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.

“Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” he tweeted.

US President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting with members of the the Senate Finance Committee and his economic team at the White House on October 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Trump’s extreme-vetting policy on immigrants entails more stringent investigative measures intended to identify those who may sympathize with extremists or pose a national security risk to the United States.

Police said Saipov rented the truck at about 2 p.m. in New Jersey, entering the bike path about an hour later on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center, the site of the deadliest terror attack in US history. The truck then turned at Chambers Street, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.

A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said. Afterward, at least two covered-over bodies could be seen lying on the bike path, and the front end of the truck was smashed in, as was the side of the school bus.

Tom Gay, a school photographer, heard people saying there was an accident and went down to West Street, where a woman came around the corner shouting, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”

Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running on West Street holding a gun. He said a heavyset man was chasing him.

Authorities investigate the scene near a covered body on a bike path after a motorist drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

He said he heard five or six shots, and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said five of the nation’s citizens were among the eight people killed in the attack. The deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister of Belgium said in a tweet one of the dead was Belgian.

Belgians and Argentines were also among the 11 wounded in the attack.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said the Argentine victims were in a group of friends who traveled to New York from Rosario. It said they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of graduating from Polytechnic College of Rosario.

The ministry said it stands “with the families in this terrible moment of deep pain, which is shared by all Argentines.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had no knowledge of any Israelis injured in the attack.

The city’s Halloween parade went on as scheduled after the attack, but security was increased, with extra officers, heavy-weapons teams and sand trucks parked as protective barriers along the route.

A Home Depot Inc. spokesman said the company, based in Atlanta, was “fully cooperating” with law enforcement in the investigation.

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