Saturday 18 November 2017

Attacker followed instructions posted by Isil on social media

Amaya Lopez-Silvero and Elliot Levy close to the attack scene. Photo: Reuters
Amaya Lopez-Silvero and Elliot Levy close to the attack scene. Photo: Reuters

Emily Shugerman

The man suspected of driving a truck into a Manhattan bike path, killing eight and injuring 12, followed instructions posted by Isil on social media "almost to a 'T'," the New York police department has revealed.

Although officials said they had uncovered no formal links to Isil, or any other international extremist groups, the suspect planned his attack for weeks and carried it out in the name of Isil, according to NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism John Miller.

Police identified the suspect in the attack as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, who was born in Uzbekistan and immigrated to the US in 2010. He is currently being treated in a New York hospital, after being shot by a police officer during the attack.

"He did this in the name of Isil," Mr Miller said at a press conference yesterday. "Along with the other items recovered at the scene [were] some notes that further indicated that." The notes, the commissioner said, were hand-written in Arabic and read: "Islamic State will endure forever."

Mr Miller said the suspect appeared to have followed instructions that Isil members had posted on social media, teaching followers how to carry out such an attack. Isil has released detailed instructions on carrying out vehicle attacks like those seen in Nice, Barcelona and London. The group has named crowded streets as prime targets, and declared murdering civilians permissible under Islam.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN that Mr Saipov appeared to have been radicalised domestically, and followed the "lone wolf" model of attackers who were trained online, rather than in a training camp.

Members at a mosque near Mr Saipov's New Jersey home told 'The Independent' that they had seen him around, but that he was not a regular attendee. Mosque president Ibrahim Matarihe said the suspect was "not associated with the mosque".

Mr Saipov had never been a suspect in FBI or NYPD investigations, according to Mr Miller. Authorities are now looking for ties between the suspect and others who had been named in investigations.

At the press conference, Mr Cuomo called the suspect a "depraved coward" who had failed in his goal to terrorise the city. The day after the attack, Mr Cuomo noted, "people got up; they went to work; children went to school". "That's what makes New Yorkers special," he added. "That strength, that resilience, that ability to be undeterred in the face of ugliness."

Authorities have stepped up security throughout Manhattan in the wake of the attack, deploying officers and explosive-detecting dogs to subway stations and tourist attractions across the city. But Mr Cuomo told CNN that authorities had no evidence yet of continuing or connected plots. "Our only evidence to date is that this was an isolated incident that he himself performed," the governor said.

Authorities say Mr Saipov rented a truck in New Jersey and drove it to lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. From there, he allegedly ploughed the truck through a footpath in the Tribeca neighbourhood, appearing to target cyclists and pedestrians. The attack ended when Mr Saipov's vehicle ran into a school bus, authorities said. The suspect exited his vehicle, allegedly brandishing a paintball gun and pellet gun, and was shot by police.

The attack killed eight people, six of whom came from countries other than the US. Five were visitors from Argentina, and one was from Germany, NYC Fire Department commissioner Dan Nigro said.

A dozen other people suffered injuries, spanning from a bilateral amputation to severe head trauma.

Irish Independent

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