The immigrant from Uzbekistan who is accused of renting a Home Depot pickup truck and running over tourists was hit with federal charges this week related to the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11.
Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, 29, who police said was inspired by ISIS, has been charged with one count of terrorism and supporting a terrorist organization, and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle. He said little in his first court appearance, which he entered using a wheelchair.
After the bloody attack in Manhattan at the end of October, which killed eight and injured 12 more, Saipov stated that he had good feelings about what he did and wanted to kill more. He also told the FBI that he wanted to drive the truck into pedestrians on the West Side Highway. Then, he intended to go to the Brooklyn Bridge and hit more pedestrians. He stated that he wanted to put ISIS flags on the truck but he decided not to do it because he did not want to draw too much attention.
Court records stated that Saipov’s phone had dozens of violent ISIS videos and thousands of images of propaganda from the notorious terror group. It also stated that he had been planning the New York terror attack for a year. He said that he had rented the truck in Passaic NJ on Oct. 22. The alleged terrorist stated that he wanted to practice taking turns before the attack happened. The acting US attorney on the case is Joon Kim.
Right before Kim made announcements on the case, he stated that the FBI also was looking for another person from Uzbekistan named Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, who may have participated in the attack. Shortly after that announcement, the FBI said that it had found the second person but did not describe him as a suspect.
The federal charges against Saipov came right after the top NYC anti terrorism official said that the suspect had followed the playbook of ISIS exactly. John Miller, the dep. Commissioner for intelligence, said that the man had done the act in the name of ISIS, adding that he had seemed to follow the manual on ISIS attacks on soft targets, such as pedestrians and tourists.
Miller stated that FBI investigators had come to this conclusion after agents had tried to ask questions of Saipov at Bellevue Hospital. They recovered a note written in Arabic that allegedly revealed that the man was sympathetic to ISIS.
NBC News also noted that a note found in the truck stated that ISIS will live forever. Miller stated that Saipov seemed to have planned the deadly rampage for a few weeks. He seems to have followed ISIS instructions precisely on how to carry out mass casualty attacks. However, there seemed to be no indication that the man was in contact with ISIS in a direct way.
Saipov came to the US as an immigrant in 2010 and lives in Paterson NJ with his wife. He was not on the FBI terror watch list and he also was not under surveillance from the NYPD. He was however questioned by investigators from Homeland Security in NY in 2015 because he was linked to a man who federal agents said had overstayed their tourist visas.
The suspect came to the US on a diversity immigrant visa through the Department of Homeland Security. This program provides green cards to as many as 50,000 people every year. The visas are given out randomly to people from countries that do not have a lot of immigrants in the US.
It is not known why Saipov targeted that highway in that part of Manhattan. He seems to have been a self radicalized person after he just started to read and watch ISIS propaganda.
According to his neighbor in Paterson named Carlos Batista, he had seen the attacker and two friends traveling in a Home Depot truck several times in the last month. Batista told police that he had found the man’s behavior strange. He was renting the truck several times over several weeks and was not using it for construction work or moving.
Saipov was most recently a driver for Uber and had lived in Stow, OH and Tampa FL. According to other Uzbeks who have settled in Stow OH, the terrorist attack is like a nightmare for them. One stated that he did not see signs that he was becoming a terrorist. The man said that Saipov seemed ok at the start and he was not particularly religious. But he got the impression over time that he was becoming more aggressive.
Timeline of a Deadly Terror Attack in NYC
The police said that Saipov left Home Depot at 2:06 PM on Oct. 31. He crossed the George Washington Bridge and entered Manhattan 40 min later. At 3:04 pm, he then steered the Home Depot truck into the bike lanes, apparently looking to strike bike riders and pedestrians.
Then he hit a school bus and got out of the truck and yelled ‘God is great’ in Arabic. He had a paint ball and pellet gun with him, and also had knives in the truck. A police officer stopped the rampage when he shot the man in the abdomen.