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Charges Filed Against NYC Terrorist Suspect
Federal prosecutors filed charges accusing the driver of the Manhattan truck attack of carrying out a long-planned plot, allegedly spurred by Islamic State propaganda videos, to kill people celebrating Halloween.
The charges, filed just over 24 hours after the deadliest terror attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, placed the case in the civilian courts even as President Trump denounced the American criminal justice system as “a joke” and “a laughingstock.”
The charges depict the driver, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as a voracious consumer and meticulous student of ISIS propaganda, and detail how he said he was inspired to attack by an ISIS video questioning the killing of Muslims in Iraq. Authorities say he began planning the attack about a year ago and, after taking a test run in a Home Depot rental truck last week, chose Halloween to carry it, to maximize harm.
The charges were filed in civilian court, and not the military system set up for foreign terrorists, a decision that flew in the face of Mr. Trump’s broadsides against the criminal justice system. Mr. Trump said he was open to trying Mr. Saipov instead in military court at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Saipov, accused of killing eight people and injuring 12 in the attack, was pushed into a Manhattan federal courtroom in a wheelchair just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. He sat slightly hunched, his lithe body dressed in a gray shirt and pants. His hair stuck up somewhat in the back. His hands and feet were chained. Five guards stood behind him.
Complaint Against Suspect in Manhattan Terror Attack
A Russian interpreter spoke into a microphone, and Mr. Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, fitted an earpiece over his long beard and cutting features. When Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses asked if he understood the proceedings, Mr. Saipov, in a high, clear audible voice, responded in English, “Yes, ma’am.”
He nodded along as Judge Moses read his rights, but sat still and impassive when she read the charges against him: one count of providing material support to terrorists and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle causing death.
David E. Patton, the chief federal public defender in New York City, who was representing Mr. Saipov, asked that he receive a daily change of dressing on the wounds he sustained after being shot by a New York police officer, Ryan Nash, 28 who responded from the first precinct.
“He is in a significant amount of pain,” Mr. Patton said.
Mr. Saipov’s path toward extremism began coming into view on Wednesday.
The F.B.I., after saying it was trying to learn more about a second Uzbek man in connection with the attack, later announced that investigators had found the man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, in New Jersey. It was not clear why federal authorities wanted to question him in connection with the attack.
The authorities questioned Mr. Saipov after he waived his Miranda rights at a Manhattan hospital, the complaint says. They were also questioning Mr. Saipov’s wife, Nozima Odilova, who was cooperating, law enforcement officials said. The couple live in Paterson, N.J., and have three children.
Investigators were still looking into whether Mr. Saipov had links to other federal counterterrorism inquiries.
On Mr. Saipov’s cellphone, F.B.I. Agents found 90 videos, including of ISIS fighters killing prisoners and of instructions for making an explosive device, according to the criminal complaint. They also found 3,800 images, among them a few of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. The complaint said Mr. Saipov reported being inspired in particular by a video in which Mr. al-Baghdadi “questioned what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.”
Trail of Terror in the Manhattan Truck Attack
A series of diagrams show points where victims were hit during the attack.Aerial Map
The federal complaint filed against Mr. Saipov said he adhered to instructions last November in an ISIS magazine, Rumiyah, for a vehicle attack. After plowing his Home Depot rental truck down a bike path along the Hudson River populated with pedestrians and cyclists and crashing into a school bus, the complaint said, he jumped out of the truck, yelled “Allahu akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) and waved a paintball gun and a pellet gun.
The Rumiyah instructions called for followers to carry secondary weapons so they could continue an attack after crashing the vehicle, and Mr. Saipov did so, the complaint said: He had a bag of knives in the truck “but was unable to reach them before exiting.” There was also a stun gun on the floor of the truck near the driver’s seat, according to the complaint.
Investigators found a handwritten note in Arabic and English 10 feet from the driver’s side door, as the front of the truck sat smashed in, soil strewn across the street knocked out of a nearby planter. According to the complaint, the note detailed a pledge that echoed language used by ISIS: “Islamic Supplication. It will endure.”
“He appears to have followed almost to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out,” John J. Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
Those who knew Mr. Saipov said he had been turning toward extremism for years since arriving in the United States in 2010.
Hundreds of detectives worked through the night following the Tuesday attack. Among other things, they’ve been “meticulously” collecting security video. The West Side Highway remains closed from 14th street to the Battery Park tunnel which is still being scoured as an active crime scene.
New York City Fire Commissioner Joseph A. Nigro said four people remain in critical but stable condition following the Manhattan truck attack that claimed eight lives.
Police Chief of Department Carlos Gomez says security enhancements include heavy weapons teams throughout the city.
Governor Andrew Cuomo called it a “Classic case of a domestic jihadist associated with ISIS.” “This is their new playbook, use a vehicle to cause harm,” he said.
51, 000 participants are set to race on Sunday as 2.5 M spectators look on, lining the streets in all 5 Burroughs for the New York City Marathon. “It is going to a very safe event,” Commissioner Nigro said. The department has doubled sniper observation posts, weapons teams along the route and a mobile response team if needed elsewhere. Sand trucks will be used at intersections to prevent vehicular entry.
“We got 8.5 million New Yorkers and millions of visitors here to observe, and we will have a safe and enjoyable Sunday,” Miller said.