Updated: November 1, 2017 12:48:00 pm
At least eight people were killed and 11 injured after a man in a rented Home Depot pick-up truck mowed down civilians after driving onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Centre memorial in Lower Manhattan area in New York City on Tuesday. The attack is being dubbed as the worst in New York since 9/11.
The driver was shot at by the police after he jumped out of the vehicle, screaming and carrying what later turned out to be fake guns in both his hands, officials said. The driver, who was identified as 29-year old Uzbekistan citizen Sayfullo Saipov, was shot in the abdomen before being arrested. He underwent surgery and is expected to survive. According to authorities, he shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) after jumping out of the truck. Who is Sayfullo Saipov?
A note was recovered from the truck, according to reports, in which the Islamic State terror group was referred to. Authorities, in possession of it, are reviewing its contents.
Uber, in a statement, confirmed the shooter was one of its drivers, reported The Associated Press. He had reportedly passed a background check and was actively on its platform for the last six months. Uber said it is “horrified by this senseless act of violence.”
In response to the incident, US President Donald Trump directed authorities to step up the country’s “already extreme vetting”. In a post on Twitter, he said, “I have just ordered homeland security to step up our already extreme vetting program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this.”
He also expressed his condolences on Twitter. “My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!” He added: “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.! We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”
The incident took place at a bike path on West Street, just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. Apart from striking civilians, the truck also rammed into a small yellow school bus. Two children inside the bus were injured, the police said. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were also recovered from the scene.
Speaking to reporters, Mayor Bill de Blasio described the incident as a “cowardly act of terror”. He said, “This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.’ Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described the incident as a “lone wolf” attack, adding that there was not any evidence to suggest the incident was part of the larger plot.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on Wednesday morning. On Twitter, he said, “Strongly condemn the terror attack in New York City. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with those injured.” He was among the many leaders who condemned the attack.
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neil said the methodology of the attack and the words used by the man as he came out of the truck led police to conclude it was a terrorist act. All roads across the Western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River have been cordoned off.
Eyewitnesses described seeing a lot of blood and screams from the site of the attack. “So many police came and they didn’t know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs,” Eugene Duffy, 43, a chef at a waterfront restaurant told news agency The Associated Press.
“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” Uber driver Chen Yi added. He further said that he saw a truck ploughing into people on a bike path adjacent to West Side Highway, after which he heard seven to eight gunshots. He said he saw police pointing a gun at a man kneeling on the pavement.
(With inputs from agencies)