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NY Truck Attacker Said ‘he felt good about’ rampage

NEW YORK — The suspect in a deadly truck rampage was inspired by the Islamic State group's online videos and plotted his New York City attack for two months, renting a truck ahead of time to practice turning it, federal authorities said in a criminal complaint bringing terrorism charges against the Uzbek immigrant.

Sayfullo Saipov chose the attack date to target Halloween crowds, according to the criminal complaint. And after his trail of terror was halted by a police bullet, he asked to display the Islamic State group's flag in his hospital room, saying "he felt good about what he had done," authorities said.

Brought to court in a wheelchair, Saipov was held without bail on charges that could bring the death penalty. Separately, the FBI was questioning people who might have information about his actions before the attack, including a second Uzbek man.

Truck attack suspect is charged with terrorism offenses

The charges against Saipov, 29, came just a day after the attack near the World Trade Center killed eight people. Investigators in multiple states raced to retrace Saipov's steps and understand his motivations, which they said were illuminated by a note he left by the truck: "Islamic Supplication. It will endure." The phrase "it will endure" commonly refers to the Islamic State group, and Saipov had a cellphone loaded with the group's propaganda, an FBI agent said in the criminal complaint.

Handcuffed and with his legs shackled, Saipov nodded his head as he was read his rights in a brief court proceeding that he followed through a Russian interpreter. Outside court, his appointed lawyer, David Patton, said he hoped "everyone lets the judicial process play out."

"I promise you that how we treat Mr. Saipov in this judicial process will say a lot more about us than it will say about him," Patton said.

The FBI released a poster saying it was looking for one of Saipov's associates, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, only to announce less than 90 minutes later that it had found him. A law enforcement official said Kadirov was a friend of Saipov's and may not have any role in the case. Saipov didn't have many friends, the official said. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A married father of three and former commercial truck and ride-hailing driver, Saipov began planning an attack a year ago and settled on a truck assault a couple of months ago, according to the criminal complaint.

During the last few weeks, Saipov searched the internet for information on Halloween in New York City and rented a truck to practice turns. He chose a route along a lower Manhattan highway and initially hoped to continue to hit more pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge, the complaint said.

Ultimately, Saipov sped down a bike path on a riverfront esplanade in a rented truck for nearly a mile Tuesday, running down cyclists and pedestrians, before crashing into a school bus, authorities said. He was shot after he jumped out of the vehicle brandishing two air guns and yelling "God is great!" in Arabic, they said. Knives were found in a bag he was carrying. A stun gun was found inside the truck.

In the past few years, the Islamic State group has exhorted followers online to use vehicles, knives or other close-at-hand means of killing people in their home countries. England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016.

The fact that a note was left at the scene was significant, because it showed he was following their instructions to the letter, NYPD Intelligence and Counterterrorism head John Miller said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

"He was following the ISIS instructions which says if you're going to do this you need to claim credit for ISIS or we won't know you're one of us and to yell it out, post it online or their magazine even suggested leaving leaflets and this seems to touch on that last piece," he said.

Saipov's court appearance came just hours after President Donald Trump said he would consider sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba — an idea the White House reinforced by saying it considered Saipov to be an "enemy combatant." Detainees at Guantanamo accused of supporting militants have faced military tribunals, rather than trials in the U.S. legal system.

By afternoon, though, Saipov was in federal court facing charges that include providing material support to a terrorist group. Trump's administration could, at least in theory, still send the suspect to the U.S. base in Cuba later, though such a step would be unprecedented.

Late Wednesday night, the president took to Twitter to say that Saipov should get the death penalty.

Trump also has called for eliminating the 1990s visa lottery program that Saipov used to come to the U.S. in 2010.

Miller said Saipov had never been the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI or New York police, but appears to have links to people who have been investigated. He wouldn't elaborate. Miller said Thursday he appeared to be the only suspect, but he cautioned the investigation was relatively fresh.

The attack killed five people from Argentina, one from Belgium and two Americans, authorities said. Twelve people were injured.

City leaders vowed New York would not be intimidated and said Sunday's New York City Marathon would go on as scheduled, with increased security.

Associated Press writers Dake Kang in Stow, Ohio; Jennifer Peltz, Tom Hays, Karen Matthews and Kiley Armstrong in New York; Deepti Hajela and Wayne Parry in Paterson, New Jersey; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey; Tamara Lush in Tampa, Florida; Ben Fox in Miami; Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles; and Michael R. Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

NEW YORK — The suspect charged Wednesday in the first deadly terrorist attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, became radicalized by watching Islamic State videos on his cellphone and struck on Halloween to kill as many people as possible, authorities said.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was charged in federal court with supporting Islamic State extremists and vehicular violence after officials said he drove a rental truck down a busy riverfront bike path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan a day earlier, killing eight people and injuring at least a dozen. He was arrested after a police officer shot him in the abdomen.

While hospitalized, Saipov — a trucker and an Uber driver who legally came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010 — reportedly told law enforcement officials that he had turned to radicalism a year ago after watching a video of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the U.S. were doing about the deaths of Muslims in Iraq.

Saipov said he started planning the truck attack two months ago. He asked for an Islamic State flag to be draped in his hospital room and said “he felt good about what he had done,” according to court documents.

But if the attack was meant to bring New York City to its knees, New Yorkers instead largely brushed it off, holding Halloween festivities as usual, taking their kids to school and switching out decorations for the upcoming winter holidays — shaken, but determined to push forward.

Jenny Sheffer-Stevens took her son Hutch, 12, back to school at IS 289 Middle School, which sits near the intersection where Saipov’s rented truck had hit a school bus. Hutch had seen the end of the attack, and the school gave him the option to stay home.

Sheffer-Stevens and her son decided against it — they wanted “a balance between business as usual and keeping the conversation going,” she said.

The New York City Marathon, which typically draws tens of thousands of runners, was expected to be held as scheduled on Sunday.

In Washington, Saipov’s immigration history and apparent extremism prompted the Trump administration to respond more aggressively than it did after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead. The administration at that time urged caution as investigators gathered facts.

The White House and some members of Congress on Wednesday referred to Saipov as an “enemy combatant.”

Taking aim at Democrats, President Donald Trump called for Congress to crack down on U.S. immigration programs, including the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program that Saipov used to enter the U.S.

“We have to get much tougher, we have to get much smarter, and we have to get much less politically correct,” Trump said before the start of a Cabinet meeting in Washington. “We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”

Trump also criticized the judicial system’s handling of terrorism cases, which are addressed in federal court and typically bring convictions and long sentences a year or two after arrest.

“We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters at the Capitol that Saipov should be taken to the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Saipov should not be read Miranda rights to remain silent because enemy combatants are not entitled to such rights, McCain said in a separate statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who called the attack heartbreaking, also said Saipov “should be held as an enemy combatant under the law of war,” saying ample evidence suggests the suspect was motivated to kill by radical Islamic thought and acted in allegiance to Islamic State.

The Trump administration said the president would support sending Saipov to Guantanamo.

Later in the day, however, prosecutors said Saipov was criminally charged in the federal Southern District of New York, suggesting that his case will be handled similarly to other recent terrorism cases.

The issue of Miranda rights didn’t seem to matter, as Saipov had waived his right to remain silent, according to court documents, which said investigators had found 90 videos and 3,800 images related to the Islamic State on his phone, including some of the gruesome torture and executions of the group’s prisoners.

A roughly two-mile stretch of highway in lower Manhattan was shut down for the investigation. Authorities also converged on a New Jersey apartment building and a van in a parking lot at a New Jersey Home Depot store, where Saipov was thought to have rented a flatbed truck for a 75-minute time period — with no intention to return it, according to court documents.

Saipov had also rented a truck on Oct. 22 to practice his turns, and he initially thought of carrying out the attack with Islamic State flags on his windows, before deciding that doing so would draw too much attention, officials said.

After Saipov carried out his attack Tuesday afternoon, he emerged from the truck shouting “Allahu akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic — and carrying paintball and pellet guns that resembled real guns. Officials said there were knives and a stun gun at the scene, and a document in English and Arabic written by Saipov that said Islamic State “will endure,” documents said.

On Wednesday, investigators announced they were seeking another Uzbek man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, for questioning in the case, but soon said they were no longer looking for him. They declined to provide further information.

The attacker’s victims reflected a city that is a melting pot and a magnet for visitors: One of the dead was from Belgium. Five were from Argentina and were celebrating the 30th anniversary of a school graduation, according to officials in those countries. The injured included students and employees on a school bus that the driver rammed.

“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,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

An Ohio-linked Facebook account with a similar spelling of Saipov’s name, which has since been removed, revealed little about its owner other than an apparent interest in cars and that he studied at the Tashkent Moliya Institute in Uzbekistan.

A fellow Uzbek truck driver in Ohio, Mirrakhmat Muminov, told the Associated Press that Saipov was “not happy with his life” and bickered with friends and family.

Saipov had lost his license because of traffic tickets and companies had stopped hiring him, Muminov said. Saipov then moved to New Jersey, where his truck engine reportedly blew up a few months ago, which “probably hurt him more than anything,” Muminov said.


New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. England, France, Spain and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the last year or so.

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller said that Saipov had never been the subject of an NYPD Intelligence Bureau investigation or an FBI investigation, but that it was likely that he would be found to have connections to others who have been.

Tuesday’s attack came four days after another Uzbek immigrant, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev of Brooklyn, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after threatening on an Uzbek-language web site to kill President Barack Obama on behalf of Islamic State and to fly to Syria to join the group.

Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev sent his condolences to Trump and the families of the victims and offered his country’s assistance in investigating the attack.

(Staff writers Agrawal reported from New York and Pearce from Los Angeles. Special correspondent Matt Hansen reported from New York.

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