Halloween opened up darkly for New York City residents as a driver drove a pickup truck down a bike path in downtown Manhattan, killing eight pedestrians and injuring 11 other people in what is being defined as the deadliest such attack in the city since the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center. In fact, the rampage occurred in close proximity to the World Trade Center Memorial. The frightening event ended when the driver crashed into a school bus, exited his truck and pointed guns in the air shouting “Allahu akbar” before getting shot by a policeman. The attacker, later identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, was alive but in critical condition. The guns were later found to be paintball guns.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proceeded to call the incident a terrorist attack and “a particularly cowardly act”. Investigators found notes written in Arabic in Saipov’s truck that professed allegiance to ISIS, although they have not confirmed if there are serious connections between Saipov and the terrorist organization. Saipov entered the United States in 2010 with a green card after growing up in Uzbekistan. Uzbeks have been targeted by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in recent years as that country has had past ties to ISIS. In fact, a recent investigation found five Uzbeks in Brooklyn guilty of providing material support to ISIS. During Saipov’s time in the U.S., he lived in Paterson, New Jersey and Tampa, Florida. The truck he was driving during this attack was traced back as a rental from a Home Depot store in northern New Jersey.
Five of the eight that were killed in the attack were Argentinian tourists who were in New York City as part of a 30th high school reunion; one member of the group was also injured. Belgian authorities also reported one Belgian citizen was killed in the attack, in addition to three wounded. Observers felt the death toll was rather fortunate considering the attack happened just as schools were letting children out, resulting in a more-crowded-than-usual environment.
This is yet another chapter in the troubling trend of terrorists using vehicles to execute mass killings in crowded cities. For example, a truck in Nice, France killed over 80 people during Bastille Day celebrations. Even in New York City this is not an isolated incident, as a car ran through a pedestrian-heavy area in Times Square in May and killed one person. ISIS has expressed support for this tactic, advertising it in promotional material distributed within the organization. Also, it was later uncovered that a French pro-ISIS group called Centre Mediatique An-Nur had put out a threat about a Halloween attack.