Just over 16 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials from the New York Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation found themselves investigating the specter of Islamic terrorism in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
At least eight people are dead and 11 injured after a 29-year-old man in a truck plowed down a popular bike path in lower Manhattan Tuesday afternoon just after 3 p.m., traveling 20 blocks before jumping out of the vehicle while wielding a paintball gun and pellet gun, according to officials. Witnesses told Task & Purpose they saw the truck mount a curb, mowing down a rack of Citi Bikes before colliding with a school bus carrying two adults and two children.
Upon exiting the vehicle, a white pickup truck with Home Depot markings, the man was shot and injured by police and taken into custody.
The suspect was later identified by law enforcement officials as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbek national living in New Jersey who came to the United States in 2010, according to NBC New York.
Eyewitness to NYC truck attack says alleged suspect “sprinted toward the group of kids” after crashing onto bike path and hitting school bus pic.twitter.com/Sbqt4h7OYS
— ABC News (@ABC) October 31, 2017
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the incident a terror attack. “This was an act of terror,” he said during a press conference at New York City Hall. “A cowardly act of terror.”
The NYPD and FBI are currently investigating the incident, saying that it had the characteristics of an ISIS attack. The use of a civilian vehicle as a battering ram, CNN notes, has become a hallmark of recent ISIS-inspired attacks in cities like Paris and Barcelona; two law enforcement officials told the New York Times that the attacker was heard yelling “Allahu Akbar” by several witnesses. Authorities also reportedly found a note in the truck claiming he committed the act in support of ISIS, according to NBC New York.
Within an hour of initial reports of the incident, bystanders and reporters gathered on the corner of Chambers and Greenwich, just blocks from the new Freedom Tower. De Blasio arrived in his motorcade, preceded by his press secretary, Eric Phillips; forensic analysts from the FBI’s Evidence Response Team followed shortly thereafter.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) October 31, 2017
Witnesses who spoke to Task & Purpose initially characterized the incident as “road rage.”
John Williams, a 22-year-old New Jersey native, was walking through the Tribeca Skate Park just north of the scene when he heard “five to 10” gunshots. Instead of fleeing, he headed toward the scene, where he saw the pickup truck with Home Depot markings “with its front crumpled in.”
“I arrived about 30 seconds after I hear the shots, and there were a few dozen police and emergency responders treating one person on the ground,” Williams told Task & Purpose. “They had another guy on his knees who [the NYPD] was putting cuffs on … he wasn’t resisting.”
He added: “I could smell the gunpowder in the air.”
In a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, officials confirmed that a Halloween parade in Manhattan that attracts tens of thousands of people every year and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. will go on as planned. “We are going to go about our business in the city; we are not going to be deterred,” de Blasio said.
This is a developing story. Task & Purpose will continue to provide updates as we learn more.