Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek national who worked as a commercial truck and Uber driver, was identified in news reports as the suspect accused of ramming a Home Depot rental truck into people on a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing at least eight and injuring multiple more, in a frightening “act of terror” that unfolded in the shadow of the World Trade Center memorial.
Saipov, who had identification from Tampa, Florida, was recently living in New Jersey and also drove for Uber this summer. According to CBS News, the terror suspect is “Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, apparently from Uzbekistan,” a central Asian nation. He is an Uzbek national who has been in the United States for seven years, according to NBC and CNN. Online records show he worked as a commercial truck driver and had ties to Ohio as well. According to the New York Post, a friend described Saipov as a “friendly Uber driver.” Although in the country since 2010, Saipov had contact with law enforcement in many states for minor traffic violations, showing a mobile life.
He came to the U.S. through the Diversity Visa Program, “a State Department program which offers a lottery for people from countries with few immigrants in America,” prompting President Donald Trump to tweet on November 1, “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.” Saipov was charged with terrorism counts on November 1.
Earlier concerns that the attack was terrorism appear to be well-founded; the suspect left a note that said he carried out the attack in the name of ISIS, which was found near the truck. He also had a photo of the ISIS flag. New York police and other authorities declined to release the 29-year-old suspect’s name in an early evening press conference after the Halloween afternoon attack, but the mayor publicly and quickly called the truck ramming an “act of terror,” and his identity quickly leaked. CNN is reporting that sources say Saipov is not a U.S. citizen. Visitors to New York City were among those killed in the carnage; five of the deceased victims are from Argentina. They were together on a trip to New York City to celebrate the anniversary of their graduation and were on a bicycle tour.
It might have been even worse were it not for the heroics of a New York police officer, Ryan Nash, 28, who shot the suspect in the abdomen after authorities and witnesses say Saipov leapt from the truck with paintball and pellet guns while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Saipov, who was captured in dramatic photos with a gun in each hand after crashing into a school bus, is in custody and needed surgery, New York’s top officials confirmed in the press conference. The FBI has taken over responsibility for the investigation and is considering the attack to be terrorism. It was the city’s deadliest terrorist attack since September 11, 2001.
“It looked intentional,” an eyewitness confirmed to CNN, describing the truck hurtling through the busy bike lane, leaving behind crumpled bicycles and bodies with tire tracks visible on them. Pedestrians and bicyclists can see the World Trade Center memorial as they traverse the popular, and usually peaceful, area where the attack occurred. It’s literally adjacent to the scene where the United States’ worst terrorist attack occurred. Again and again, in their initial comments, New York officials focused on the horrific spectacle of average people just going about their lives, enjoying a beautiful, sun-dappled fall day, before being struck down so randomly. Whether the suspect had any actual ties to ISIS beyond the note is not yet clear.
“The truth is, New York is an international symbol of freedom and Democracy,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in the press conference, describing the suspect as a likely “lone wolf.” He added, “That also makes us a target from those people who oppose those concepts… We go forward together, and we go forward stronger than ever. We’re not going to let them win.” Be forewarned that some of the videos and photos below are graphic.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Suspect Is an Uzbek National Who Came to the U.S. Through the Diversity Lottery Program, Was Once Interviewed by Federal Agents & Passed an Uber Background Check
Details about the suspect’s background were just unfolding as his name emerged, but it appears that he is a somewhat recent immigrant to the United States. Saipov “is an Uzbek national and came to the U.S. in 2010,” NBC News reported. The ABC News social media editor, Evan McMurry, tweeted, “NYC suspect was interviewed in 2015 by federal agents after being listed as point of contact for two men on counterterrorism list.”
Although CNN reports that it’s not clear whether he was in the United States lawfully, Fox News reports, though sources, that “the suspect was from Uzbekistan and had a green card. According to The Associated Press, Saipov has a Florida license but may have been living in New Jersey.”
Uber confirmed to ABC News that “truck attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov was an Uber driver. He passed background check, now banned from the app,” reported a network producer. According to Fox News, “Uber added it has not found any safety reports concerning the terror suspect.”
President Trump tweeted that he was stepping up “extreme vetting” for migrants in the wake of the deadly attack. “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” he wrote. According to the U.S. State Department, “The Department of State administers the Congressionally-mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program annually. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as ‘diversity immigrants’ from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.” There will be 50,000 of these visas available in 2019, according to State, which adds, “The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.” The program was introduced by Chuck Schumer in 1990 and George H.W. Bush signed it into law.
The suspect is now out of surgery. “Investigators believe he came to the country legally,” The New York Daily News reported. President Trump criticized “chain migration,” in the wake of the attack, saying Saipov was the point of contact for 23 people “brought in with him.”
According to online records from his traffic history, Saipov has worked as a commercial truck driver. He rented the Home Depot truck in New Jersey the day of the attack, CNN reports. According to The New York Post, Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, a friend of Saipov’s, met him in Florida five years ago and they became friends. “He is very good guy, he is very friendly… he is like little brother… he look at me like big brother,” Matkarov told the Post, adding that Saipov had “been working for Uber and living in New Jersey as recently as this summer.” He said that Saipov gave him a ride to JFK airport in June. The friend told Fox News he didn’t know Saipov had been radicalized, saying, “he was generally a happy-go-lucky person who loved America.”
Heavy was at the scene of Saipov’s Tampa, Florida address. Although local media were also at the scene, there did not appear to be any law enforcement activity at the spot, indicating that Saipov might not have lived there anymore. The Tampa angle broke into the news because of the ID Saipov had with him at the scene.
Here’s another photo from the scene:
According to a producer for GMA, writing on Twitter, the suspect was “carrying a Florida ID.” Authorities, without giving his name, later said he was 29 and was not from New York, but they would not confirm where he was from. A review of online records does not show much of an obvious social media presence for the suspect, although he did have a Google Plus page with two followers and no photos on it.
The page in his name had check ins at two restaurants from 2012, both in Brooklyn. One was a Russian restaurant and the other a Jewish cafe, according to the Google Plus check in. He appears to have had a Facebook page (which bears only a few photos mostly of cars and nothing obviously alarming). It said he lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and it has now been deleted. The page also said the suspect studied “Moliya,” which means he studied in the area of finance. This was one of the photos on it. According to CNN, “Saipov has been linked to social media accounts that contain ISIS-related material.”
John Williams witnessed the aftermath of the incident. He said in a media interview widely circulated on Twitter, “It was a Home Depot pickup truck. The front was entirely smashed in, and it had smoke coming out of it… and I heard it was an accident with a bus, but I didn’t see the bus. I did see the Home Depot truck… It was definitely totaled.” He added of the disturbing scene: “Right next to the truck was the man laying on the ground and the man getting arrested.”
Videos showed a large police response after reports of shots being fired. The scene of a truck ramming into pedestrians obviously brings to mind ISIS-fueled attacks in Europe in which a vehicle was the modus operandi. The attack fueled panic throughout lower Manhattan, especially due to its location near the World Trade Center site.
2. Sayfullo Saipov Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,’ Was ‘Radicalized Domestically’ & Acted ‘Proud’ of the Attack, Reports Say
Witnesses described the suspect shouting “Allahu Akbar” during the attack, and New York’s mayor called it an act of terrorism, in part because of that utterance. Authorities provided a detailed account, accusing Saipov of mowing down people wantonly who were on the bike path. The attack occurred at 3:05 p.m., when the male suspect began driving southbound, striking a number of pedestrians and bicyclists before colliding with a school bus. The 29-year-old suspect “exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” the police commissioner said. A heroic uniformed “police officer confronted the suspect and shot him in the abdomen. A pellet gun and paintball gun were recovered at the scene,” the commissioner said.
Afterwards, Saipov “seemed ‘proud’ of the attack,” an official told ABC News. The complaint backs up this allegation. It alleges that Saipov “requested to display ISIS’ flag in his hospital room and stated that he felt good about what he had done” after the attack. The complaint accusing Saipov, 29, of terrorism charges. According to the complaint, which you can read in full below, Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, became radicalized after watching ISIS videos on the Internet.
The complaint describes how Saipov rammed the truck into people on the busy bicycle path and then “exited the driver’s door of the truck with two objects in his hands that appeared to be firearms,” yelling “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great” in Arabic. Saipov was shot by a police officer and taken into custody, dropping the weapons, which consisted of a paintball gun, a pellet gun, and a black bag. Inside the bag, he had three knives and a wallet that contained a Florida driver’s license for Saipov. Authorities also recovered two cellular phones and a stun gun on the truck’s floor. Near the driver’s door of the truck, authorities recovered a document with Arabic and English text. Saipov was not able to reach the knives when he jumped out of the truck, the complaint says.
The complaint also provides other chilling details, describing how Saipov’s cell phone was allegedly loaded with ISIS death videos and detailing how the suspect allegedly made a practice run with a truck. The Home Depot truck used to perpetrate the attack was rented from a store in Passaic, New Jersey, according to the complaint. Saipov was permitted to use the truck for 75 minutes, and he entered and exited the store on October 31. The note authorities found in that truck after the attack said “in substance and in part, ‘No God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet’ and ‘Islamic Supplication. It will endure.’ Authorities said that “It will endure” is commonly used to refer to ISIS.
Saipov spoke to authorities in his hospital room and, in addition to asking to hang the ISIS flag in his room, said he was “inspired to carry out the truck attack by ISIS videos he had watched on his cellular phone. Approximately one year ago, Saipov began planning an attack in the United States, and approximately two months ago, Saipov decided to use a truck in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians. In particular, Saipov was motivated to commit the attack after viewing a video in which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi… the leader of ISIS… questioned what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.”
On or about October 22, 2017, “Saipov rented a truck from the store so he could make practice making turns with the truck in advance of the attack. He chose Halloween because he believed there would be more civilians on the street for the holiday,” the complaint alleges.
On October 31, he rented the truck with no intention of ever returning it. Saipov wanted to kill as many people as he could, the complaint alleges. Saipov also wanted to display ISIS flags in the front and back of the truck during the attack, but decided against it because he did not want to draw attention to himself, said the complaint, which details interviews he gave to authorities in the hospital.
The first cell phone had 90 videos which appeared to be ISIS-related propaganda. For example they include a video of what appear to be ISIS fighters killing a prisoner by running the prisoner over with a tank; a video of what appear to be ISIS fighters shooting a prisoner in the face; a video of a beheading, and a video that appears to provide instructions for how to make a homemade improved explosive device. The photo contains 3,800 images, many of them ISIS propaganda, including the symbol for ISIS’ media wing, multiple images of al-Baghdadi, and an image of an ISIS member standing next to an individual who appears to have been shot, the complaint said.
The second phone had an internet search history that included a search for the store in Passaic on October 4, an October 15 search for Halloween in NC and on or about October 18 a search for truck rentals at another store.
The first victim was identified as Ariel Erlij, a 48-year-old businessperson from Argentina who was on vacation in New York City. The other Argentinians killed were identified as Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, and Hernan Ferruchi, according to ABC. New York’s governor said on November 1 that Saipov was “radicalized domestically,” learning more about ISIS once he came to the United States. “The evidence shows — and again, it’s only several hours, and the investigation is ongoing — but that after he came to the United States is when he started to become informed about ISIS and radical Islamic tactics,” Cuomo said, according to CNN.
ABC News further reported that Saipov, in 2015, “was interviewed by federal agents because he was listed as a point of contact for two men whose names were entered into the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit’s list after they came to the U.S. from “threat countries,” overstayed their tourist visas and vanished, a federal official told ABC News. Saipov was never the main focus of these investigations and he was never the subject of his own case file.”
According to Fox News, four of the injured people were on the bus, and one of the students was in critical condition. They “were riding on a short yellow school bus near Stuyvesant High School,” reported Fox, adding that Belgian and Argentine citizens died in the mayhem. Witness Christiaan Wagener told CNN he heard the truck hitting people and making a “bang, bang, bang” sound as it did so. Children were all around because school was just getting out, he said. “I saw the driver standing next to the truck…guns in both hands,” Wagener said to CNN.
“Loss of innocent life on lower Manhattan. This is a tragedy of the greatest magnitude,” Commissioner James O O’Neill said, opening the first news conference after the attack. He said that an NYPD officer stopped the carnage “moments after it began.” He said the quick response “surely helped save additional lives.”
Mayor Bill DeBlasio said “it’s a very painful day in our city. Horrible tragedy on the west side. Based on the information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror. A particularly cowardly act of terror” against people just going on with their lives not knowing what “would hit them.” DeBlasio said eight were killed and more than a dozen injured. “This action was intended to break our spirit…our spirit will never be broken…we have been tested as a city very near to the site of this tragedy and New Yorkers do not give in to these actions,” the emotional mayor added. “We will respond as we always do. We will be undeterred.”
“I want to ask all New Yorkers, all Americans, to keep the families of those lost in your thoughts, in your prayers,” the mayor added. Cuomo, New York’s governor, noted that people were “enjoying a beautiful fall day and they’re not going to be returning home. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them.” Cuomo described the attack as perpetrated likely by a “lone wolf” and said there was no evidence to suggest a “wider scheme” but that the evidence points to the “actions of one individual who meant to cause pain and death.”
A witness described the grisly scene with fatally wounded victims on the ground with tire tracks on their bodies. “I hear a loud commotion coming from behind me,” the eyewitness told CNN. “I look and see a truck going down toward Chambers Street. He’s in the bike lane. Clearly in the bike lane….I see two gentlemen laying in the bike lane with tire tracks across their body. You can tell they’re not here anymore. I hear the lady screaming…I hear 9 or 10 gunshots…and all the police came running… they’re just as much confused as I was. They clear the area. I see a yellow school bus that this truck clearly crashed into…Somebody had more than road rage to do something like that.”
Earlier reports had indicated there was gunfire. “A witness told ABC’s New York station WABC that a truck hit multiple people on the bike path on the West Side Highway. The witness added that the truck crashed into a school bus and the driver got out and opened fire,” ABC News reported of the fast unfolding incident on October 31. However, the gunfire came from the heroic police officer stopping the attack. One photo did show a body covered with a white covering.
3. Saipov Has a Minor Traffic History as Online Records Show Him in Multiple States
Although early reports gave his home city as Tampa, Florida, online databases show the suspect having ties to multiple other states. Online records show that the suspect lived in Ohio, but he also has a minor record in Pennsylvania and Missouri, all for traffic offenses. He also has ties to Maryland, according to online record databases, and he once lived in New Jersey, according to the newspaper there. For example, he had a traffic ticket in Missouri for, according to the courts website, “Failed To Equip Mtr Carrier Veh With/Maintain Required Brake System.” (He does show up in Tampa as far back as 2011 in online records.) The latest reports indicate that New Jersey was his most recent home base.
According to NJ.com, “Police stopped Saipov in Mount Holly Springs Borough, Pennsylvania, just south of Carlisle, in March 2015 and gave police a Paterson, New Jersey address, according to court records. He also was stopped in 2012 in Palmyra, Pa., just east of Hershey, and also listed a Paterson address.”
Saipov has a record of multiple traffic offenses in Pennsylvania. In August 2012 he was stopped by state police in Palmyra Township, in Lebanon County, and cited for “out-of-service criteria,” an unlawful activity with a commercial vehicle. State law says “no person shall operate a motor carrier vehicle or cause, permit, require or otherwise allow any other person to operate a motor carrier vehicle in violation of driver out-of-service criteria or standards periodically adopted by the United States Department of Transportation.” He pleaded guilty in November 2012 and was fined more than $500. He was also charged with failure to comply with license restrictions, but that charge was withdrawn.
According to Missouri court records, Sayfullo was stopped by the Missouri Highway Patrol in St. Charles County in 2016 and charged with failure to equip a motor carrier with a required brake system/maintain capable brakes. In April 2016, a warrant was issued for failure to appear. The warrant was served in October 2016 and in November 2016 he pleaded guilty and paid a $129.50 fine and $70.50 in court costs.
He has also been cited in Maryland. On April 21, 2011, he was stopped in Harford County and charged with failure to maintain a driver’s log, a charge that applies to commercial truck drivers.
In March 2015, Saipov was stopped by the Mount Holly Springs Police Department in Cumberland County and charged with operating with unsafe equipment and having a trailer in violation of the maximum allowed length. He pleaded guilty in April 2015 and also paid a fine in that case.
According to Pennsylvania court records, Saipov was living in Paterson, New Jersey, at the time of both of those traffic stops in 2012 and 2015.
The sounds of gunfire in lower Manhattan led some to fear an active shooter or shooting attack was underway. Among those in the area when the attack went down: Singer Josh Groban, who tweeted, “Oh my God I just heart gun shots and ran with my dog. Downtown. F***.”
Witness Andrew Howell told ABC News “he saw a truck plow into two cyclists riding about 20 feet in front of him; he said the impact sent one of the victims straight up into the air, and the man was motionless when he landed back on the ground. The driver then continued at a high speed before crashing.”
4. Saipov Once Owned Businesses in Ohio & Graphic Videos From the Scene Showed Crumpled Bicycles & Injured People
Saipov has registered two businesses in Ohio. He registered Sayf Motors Inc. in Hamilton County in May 2011. The business is located at an apartment on Brisben Place in Cincinnati and the license remains active, state records show.
In August 2013, he registered another active business, Bright Auto LLC. That business is based in an apartment on American Drive in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, records show. Online records show that Bright Auto LLC is an active carrier registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The trucking company has one truck and one driver, records show.
One graphic video (which you can watch below) showed crumpled bikes and people lying on the pavement in the attack’s aftermath. You can view it below, but be aware that it’s disturbing. The scene was “a few blocks from the World Trade Center Memorial,” Fox reported in one of the first accounts.
A photo taken in August obtained by SITE Intel Group shows an ISIS supporter just blocks away from where Tuesday’s attack took place, although Saipov’s alliances are still being investigated, and authorities have not said publicly that they suspect anyone else as being involved in the plot.
According to National Interest, ISIS has increasingly recruited from Uzbekistan and former Soviet Republics. “ISIS operatives from Central Asia have been implicated in the Ataturk Airport and Reina Nightclub attacks in Istanbul.The June airport attack was carried out by a Chechen, a Kyrgyz and an Uzbek, ostensibly trained by ISIS,” the site reported.
“Currently, Turkish authorities suspect a Kyrgyz or Uzbek as the shooter in the Reina New Year tragedy. ISIS has claimed responsibility for that attack and declared war on Turkey. Although it is impossible to confirm how many Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and other Central Asians are fighting for ISIS in Turkey and Syria, The Diplomat reports that most are used for suicide missions.”
National Interest noted, “The Soviet collapse led to the last phase of the Afghan Civil War and the outbreak of conflict in Tajikistan, hostilities that spawned the Taliban and the lesser known Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The IMU’s stated goal was the replacement of the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan with an Islamic caliphate ruled from the Fergana Valley.” According to CNN, “There are two large jihadi groups in the country. One of them is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is affiliated with ISIS.”
5. Saipov Was Married With Children & Drew Concern at a Tampa Mosque
Neighbors where Saipov was most recently living in New Jersey didn’t notice anything amiss. According to NJ.com, “A man who said he was Saipov’s neighbor and did not want to be identified said he often saw the suspect around the neighborhood with his wife and two children. He also said he saw Saipov standing on the corner talking to friends and frequently invited them into his home.”
According to NBC News, Saipov’s wife is cooperating with law enforcement and contended she didn’t know about the attack in advance. Saipov “drew concerns” at a Tampa mosque, The New York Times reported. The preacher there told The Times that he “tried to steer…Saipov away from the path of extremism,” telling him “you are too emotional. Read books more. Learn your religion first.” The man said that Saipov didn’t always have steady work in Florida and was “prone to explosions of anger” and “had a character problem.” The Times reported that Saipov planned the Manhattan attack for weeks, according to police.
That’s quite a contrast from the horrors perpetrated on the streets of Manhattan on October 31. A witness, Ramon Cruz, told CNN: “What I saw was that the driver — he didn’t look like he was bleeding. He was dragging his foot. He looks frustrated, panicked, confused. People are running past me, saying, ‘He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.’ I didn’t see any gun.”
A short time after news of the attack broke, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express outrage. “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” Trump tweeted. He also wrote, “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”
The identities of the other victims and more information about their lives have not yet been released, although this article will be updated with names and other information when they are. You can read more details about the incident here:
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