Investigators said Wednesday that the driver of a rented pickup truck who mowed down people on a busy bike path in New York on Tuesday planned the attack for weeks and carried it out on behalf of Islamic State.
"He did this in the name of ISIS," said John Miller, the New York deputy police commissioner.
Miller told reporters that the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant who came to the United States in 2010, "appears to have followed almost exactly to a T" advice that Islamic State jihadists have posted on social media on how to carry out a vehicular attack on pedestrians and bicyclists.
He said notes linked to Saipov were found at the scene in the lower Manhattan area of the city, where a 28-year-old New York policeman, Ryan Nash, shot him in the abdomen, ending the mayhem that was carried out over a 20-block stretch alongside the Hudson River.
Authorities said Saipov was interviewed before he underwent surgery Tuesday evening for the gunshot wound, but declined to say what Saipov told them. Officials also linked Saipov to social media accounts that contain Islamic State-related material. IS has not officially claimed responsibility.
At least eight people were killed and 12 others injured in the attack, with nine still hospitalized with an array of injuries.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the attack was the "definition of terrorism. This was an attack on our values." But he said there are no "additional or credible" threats against the city. He urged New Yorkers to "be strong, be proud, be resilient, show the whole world right now, we will not be moved by terror."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called Saipov "a depraved coward" and earlier told CNN that he was "radicalized domestically."
Among those killed were five Argentine nationals who were in New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, as well as a Belgian.
Tuesday's incident, involving a rented Home Depot truck, was similar to terrorist vehicle attacks that have been carried out in other Western countries in recent years. New America, a nonpartisan research center, says 15 vehicular attacks have been carried out since 2014, killing more than 140 people.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said around 3:05 p.m. local time Tuesday, the truck entered the bike path, striking riders and pedestrians. The truck also struck a school bus, injuring two adults and two children. The driver then "exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” O’Neill said, with the policeman ending the incident by shooting Saipov. A paintball gun and a pellet gun were later found at the scene.
Greg Barton, a professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University in Australia, said it seems as if the attacker was inspired by IS.
"Islamic State doesn’t claim attacks when the attacker is held in custody and so they probably won’t claim this one," Barton told VOA. "But there’s no question that we’ve seen many attempted attacks in New York and there will be more attempts in the future."
Uzbekistan's president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Wednesday the attack was ruthless and cruel, and that his government stood ready to use all means to assist in the investigation.
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For some witnesses, the chaos was reminiscent of images of deadly attacks from across Europe.
"It always seems really distant but then when it’s right next to you, obviously it’s really shocking and disturbing, and you don’t want it to happen to anybody," said Elizabeth Chernobelsky, who witnessed the crime scene.
Others were left in disbelief. College student Jake Saunders, who barely missed a train at a crucial moment, told VOA he considers himself lucky.
"If I had made that train, I would be right where the shooting is, right there, because that was my destination," Saunders said.
The New York Police Department said it will increase the number of officers throughout the city "out of an abundance of caution."
Ramon Taylor in New York and Victor Beattie in Washington DC contributed to this report.