Update 2:20 pm: The New York Daily News is reporting that Sayfullo Saipov followed instructions from an ISIS propaganda magazine “almost to the letter” in the runup to Tuesday’s attack. This appears to support investigators’ claims that the Halloween massacre has all the hallmarks of a lone-wolf operation, and that they haven’t found any evidence that he had direct links to a terror group.
The piece, published in ISIS’s Rumiyah magazine last year, was titled “Just Terror Tactics” and lays out in chilling detail how to use a truck to maximize casualties.
“Vehicles are like knives, as they are extremely easy to acquire,” the article says. “But unlike knives, which if found in one’s possession can be a cause for suspicion, vehicles arouse absolutely no doubts due to their widespread use throughout the world. It is for this obvious reason that using a vehicle is one of the most comprehensive methods of attack.”
The story, which features a photo of a Hertz rental truck, advises would-be terrorists to use a load-bearing truck, to target areas that draw large crowds, to bring with them a secondary weapon, to announce allegiance to Allah and to leave behind a note pledging support for the Islamic State.
Saipov even left behind a note that was strikingly similar to the language suggested in the article.
The note read: “The Islamic State will remain.”
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Update 12:50 pm: The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in last night’s gruesome terror attack, did indeed gain legal entry to the US through the diversity visa program. Saipov’s participation in the program had been reported earlier, but was called into question by New York Senator Chuck Schumer after Trump blamed him for supporting the program.
We now await a response from the president, who has said he now wants to shutter the program in favor of a “merit-based” system.
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Update 12:30 pm: Trump’s vanishingly brief alliance with “Chuck and Nancy” has officially been broken (though it’s been effectively dead for weeks) now that Trump and Chuck Schumer have traded barbs on Twitter in the aftermath of last night’s terror attack, which Trump claimed was enabled by a “diversity visa” program championed by Schumer and the Democrats. Schumer promptly responded by accusing Trump of politicizing the tragedy.
But those criticisms haven’t deterred Trump, who yesterday declared that now was not the time to be politically correct, from calling for the diversity visa program to be dismantled – even as Schumer claimed that it hasn’t been definitively deteremined whether Saipov received his legal status through the program.
Trump also said that he’d consider sending Saipov to the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where high-profile terrorism targets, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad, are being held. If Trump follows through, Saipov would be the first terrorist captured domestically to be imprisoned in Guantanamo, which has so far been used primarily to detain suspected terrorists captured on foreign soil.
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Meanwhile, those killed in yesterday’s attack continue to be identified. A Belgian mother of 3-year-old and 3-month-old boys was identified Wednesday as one of the eight people killed in the terror attack in lower Manhattan, according to the New York Post.
Ann-Laure Decadt, 31, from the town of Staden, was in the Big Apple with her mom and two sisters when she was run over by a truck driven by an ISIS sympathizer. Her husband, Alexander Naessens, told Belgium’s HLN newspaper that she was riding a bike when she was struck from behind by the Home Depot truck.
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Update: Reports of the details of investigators’ conversations with Saipov are beginning to leak. While it’s unclear what, if anything, investigators learned from him, one official told ABC News the suspect seemed “proud” of the attack.
Investigators spent the overnight hours collecting video and still images from traffic and surveillance cameras along the route of the attack, sources said. Those images show that Saipov drove carefully and at moderate speed until he entered the jogging path and accelerated; investigators believe that suggests the suspect knew where he wanted to begin the attack. Authorities are pouring through toll records and other digital records to see if Saipov had scoped out the location beforehand, according to ABC.
Saipov also reportedly entered the US through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program.” In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump criticized Sen. Chuck Schumer, whom he blamed for supporting the program, and his fellow Democrats, adding that he favors a “merit-based” immigration system instead.
Saipov has come up in prior counterterror investigations as a “possible associate” of a suspect in an investigation, but he was not the focus and there was never any proof to open a case file on him so he was not under surveillance, sources said. Saipov entered the U.S. legally through New York’s JFK Airport in March 2010, according to law enforcement sources. He had a green card that allowed him permanent legal residence in the country, sources said.
The green card came via a government program called the Diversity Visa Lottery, which hands out about 55,000 visas per year.
CBS reported that Saipov bragged about his attack in the hospital and seemed pleased with its “success.” Also, he told police that he didn’t intend to crash into the school bus – and that he had hoped to run over more people. Police also revealed that they had found knives and ten to fifteen peices of paper explaining his allegiance to ISIS.
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New details about Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old Uzbek national who allegedly carried out yesterday’s Halloween terror attack in NYC, are starting to emerge.
WaPo writes that Saipov moved to the US from Uzbekistan about six years ago, according to Dilnoza Abdusamatova, 24, who said Saipov stayed with her family in Cincinnati for his first two weeks in the country because their fathers were friends. Abdusamatova said Saipov then moved to Florida to start a trucking company. Her family members think he got married about a year after arriving in the United States and may now have two children. Around that time, she said, he cut off contact with them. Yesterday, it was reported that Saipov had three children, and had been living with a girlfriend in New Jersey.
“He stopped talking to us when he got married,” Abdusamatova said.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Saipov arrived in Ohio in 2010 – a date that was also given by police. He reportedly arried from Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, knowing little English. He spent his early days in the country learning English and looking for a job. He eventually moved to Fort Myers, Fla. where he met Kobiljon Matkarov, a friend and fellow Uzbek national who was interviewed by the New York Post.
Saipov was reportedly working as a truck driver at the time. “He was a very good person when I knew him,” Matkarov said. “He liked the US. He seemed very lucky, and all the time he was happy and talking like everything is OK. He did not seem like a terrorist, but I did not know him from the inside.”
He eventually moved to New Jersey, settling in Paterson, where he began driving for Uber. By the time of the attack, he had earned a green card, granting him permanent residence in the US. An Uber official told the NYT that Saipov had passed its background checks.
“We have been in contact with the FBI and have offered out assistance,” the Uber official told the Times. “We will remain in close contact with law enforcement and the FBI to assist with their investigation.”
“We are aggressively and quickly reviewing this partner’s history with Uber and at this time we have not identified any related concerning safety reports.”
In a report that echos some of the vagaries surrounding last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, officials say they are working to determine what motivated Saipov, who rented the Home Depot rental truck in Passaic, NJ only an hour before the attack began. He also had two facsimile firearms – a paintball gun and a pellet gun, according to reports.
Last night, authorities converged on an apartment building near Genessee and Getty Avenues in Paterson that was believed to be Saipov’s residence.
At one point, Saipov had lived in Heritage at Tampa, an apartment complex near the Hillsborough River. On Tuesday evening, two plainclothes investigators were seen departing the community, WaPo reported, after interviewing several residents and others in the surrounding neighborhood. The investigators declined to answer any questions.
“Four FBI agents came and told me he used to live here,” said Venessa Jones, who said she lives in an apartment above the one Saipov rented. Neighbors at the complex said they didn’t know Saipov.
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Meanwhile, in a gesture of cooperation, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev sent his condolences to US President Donald Trump and offered his country’s assistance in investigating Tuesday’s Halloween attack in New York City after Saipov was taken into custody at the scene. Saipov is suspected of killing eight people and injuring nearly a dozen more when a truck he was driving plowed down a riverfront bike path along the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan before colliding with a school bus leaving Stuyvesant High School five blocks away from the World Trade Center memorial.
Officials who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity identified 29-year-old as the attacker. They say he came to the U.S. legally from Uzbekistan in 2010.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev also offered condolences to families of the victims in a statement Wednesday.
Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan and is one of the most closed off post-Soviet republics. Previously, Uzbek officially never commented or acknowledged any security incidents abroad involving Uzbek nationals.
Meanwhile, the Argentine foreign ministry has released the names of the five Argentinian citizens killed during Tuesday’s attack. They are: Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, and Hernan Ferruchi. Another Argentine national, Martin Ludovico Marro, is recovering from injuries at Manhattan’s Presbyterian Hospital. The victims were part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Polytechnic School of Rosario, Argentina. The government gave its condolences and said that all Argentines are sharing in this terrible moment of profound sadness.
Saipov jumped a barrier and turned his truck onto the West Side Highway bike path at 3:05 pm Tuesday and began a vicious 20-block run that saw him mow down unsuspecting cyclists and pedestrians. The sunny fall day along the Hudson River erupted in chaos just around the time students at nearby Stuyvesant High School were finishing up for the day. Saipov collided with a school bus carrying children home from the school. Witnesses say the speeding truck struck unsuspecting bicyclists and pedestrians while onlookers screamed and scattered. The truck then veered left toward Chambers Street, where it collided with the small bus, injuring two adults and two children.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during yesterday’s press conference that there was no evidence of a wider plot. Elaine Duke, the acting head of DHS, released a statement to WaPo: “We have recently seen attacks like this one throughout the world,” said acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke. “DHS and its law enforcement partners remain vigilant and committed to safeguarding the American people.”
Saipov is expected to survive, meaning investigators will soon interrogate him about his motive for the attack, but so far, they said, he appears to have been a “lone wolf’’ suspect: someone who acted alone after being inspired, but not directly instructed, by ISIS. The investigation is being led by the FBI with the participation of the NYPD.