A 29-year old man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down people and cyclists on a bike path in lower Manhattan, New York City on Tuesday, killing 8 and injuring almost a dozen in what authorities say is an act of terrorism.
The attacker, a radicalized immigrant from Uzbekistan was shot in the abdomen by Police and arrested after he crashed the truck into a school bus, got off and fled. According to authorities, Sayfullo Saipov who yelled “Allahu akbar” during the attack pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).
The New York Times, citing Law Enforcement sources, reported that investigators found a note left by the suspect claiming that he carried out the attack in the name of the Islamic State militant group.
Of the 8 people killed, 6 were pronounced dead at the scene and 2 more were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. 11 survivors with serious but non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospitals.
Five of the dead were Argentine citizens, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the Argentina Foreign Ministry said. A sixth member of the group was among those hospitalized after the attack, the ministry said in a statement.
The five Argentine citizens killed in Tuesday’s attack were identified by their home government as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi, all from the city of Rosario. Their ages were not given.
A representative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security similarly called the incident an “apparent act of terrorism.”
The suspect drove onto the bike path in lower Manhattan at 3:05 p.m. and sped south for about 20 city blocks, running down pedestrians and bicyclists along the way before slamming into the side of the school bus. Two children and two adults were injured in that collision, according to Law Enforcement.
The man then climbed out of this truck with what appeared to be a handgun. Police later recovered a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun from the scene, authorities said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said said the President was briefed on the incident.
The President later said in an official White House statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s terrorist attack in New York City and their families.” He also paid tribute to the “first responders who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims.”
Although he did not appear in public, President Trump put out a series of statements via Twitter. He also announced a crackdown and further tightening of extreme vetting.
“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 on Twitter.
“We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” said the President.
According to Fox News reports, Saipov arrived in the U.S. as a legal immigrant in 2010, courtesy of the Diversity Visa Program otherwise known as a Visa Lottery. President Trump has proposed to eliminate the program.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from ISIS, al Qaeda or any other terrorist group.
However, pro-Islamic State websites were openly exalting in the attack, and terrorism analyst Rukmini Callimachi reported that a French ally of the Islamic State had issued an unusually specific threat against Halloween gatherings in the West on Monday.
Though there have been failed attempts, Tuesday’s attack was the first terrorist act to claim casualties in New York since Sept. 11, 2001. It took place just blocks away from the National Sept. 11 Memorial.
The incident marked the greatest loss of life from a suspected terrorist attack in New York since suicide hijackers crashed jetliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, killing more than 2,600 people.
Tuesday’s assault, on the far west side of lower Manhattan a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, was reminiscent of several deadly vehicle attacks in Europe during the past 15 months.
“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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference.
NYPD Commissioner said the pickup truck driven by the suspect had been rented from the Home Depot hardware chain, but declined to say where it was rented.
Mangled and flattened bicycles littered the sunlit bike path, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway along the Hudson River, after the attack.
Despite the attack, thousands of costumed Halloween revelers turned out hours later for New York City’s main Halloween parade, which went on as scheduled Tuesday night with a heightened police presence just a few blocks from the scene of the carnage.
Similar attacks in Europe last year killed scores of people.
On July 14, 2016, a suspect drove a large truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more in an attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Five months later a Tunisian asylum seeker, who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, plowed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.
A driver rammed his van into crowds in the heart of Barcelona on Aug. 17 this year, killing 13 people, in an attack authorities said was carried out by suspected Islamist militants.
A Reuters report. Further editing by Manyika Review.