Eight dead as van mows down cyclists and pedestrians in New York.
- Credit: AP
A man in a rented van mowed down cyclists and pedestrians in New York killing eight people in what the city’s mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror”.
He careered down a popular cycle path a few streets from the World Trade Centre memorial injuring at least 11 people.
The 29-year-old driver, named by authorities as Sayfullo Saipov, was shot in the stomach by police and arrested after jumping out of the van with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
The suspect, originally from Uzbekistan, has a Florida driving licence but may have been living in New Jersey.
Uber confirmed that Saipov was one if its drivers, and the company said he passed a background check and had been actively driving on the platform for more than six months.
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He has since been banned from the Uber app.
“We are horrified by this senseless act of violence,” the company said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the victims and their families. We have reached out to law enforcement to provide our assistance.”
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The driver in Tuesday’s attack barrelled along the bike path in a rented Home Depot truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus.
The mayhem and the burst of police gunfire set off panic in the neighbourhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.
“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.
Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said: “So many police came and they didn’t know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”
Police closed off streets across the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River and officers rushed into the neighbourhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.
“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,” New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
On Twitter, president Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”
While police did not specifically blame the Islamic State group for the New York bloodshed, Mr Trump railed against the extremist group, tweeting, “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”
Records show Saipov was a commercial truck driver who formed a pair of businesses in Ohio after moving to the US.
The first business, Sayf Motors Inc., used the address of a family friend near Cincinnati with whom Saipov had stayed for a couple of weeks after his arrival in the country.
The second, Bright Auto LLC, used an address near Cleveland.
A trucking industry website listed Saipov at a Paterson, New Jersey, address that authorities were searching on Tuesday night.
Court records related to trucking-related infractions list Saipov with addresses in Paterson and the Cleveland suburbs.
The family friend with whom Saipov stayed in Ohio, Dilnoza Abdusamatova, told The Cincinnati Enquirer Saipov was “really calm” and worked hard.
“He always used to work,” Ms Abdusamatova said. “He wouldn’t go to parties or anything. He only used to come home and rest and leave and go back to work.”
Police said Saipov rented the truck at about 2pm in New Jersey, entering the bike path about an hour later on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Centre, the site of the deadliest terror attack in US history.
The truck then turned at Chambers Street, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.