The Current

Suspect in deadly NYC attack leaves note referencing ISIS

"This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Police scanner audio, witness accounts of bike path attack in Manhattan 1:56

Read Story Transcript

Eight people were killed and at least 12 injured after a  29-year-old man drove a rental truck down a busy bicycle path in New York City near the World Trade Center. 

"As I go down closer to where the girl was screaming, I see two gentlemen laying there and they have tire track marks across their body ... you could tell they both weren't here," a witness describes in the aftermath of Tuesday's attack in Manhattan.

Officials are calling this attack "an act of terror."

      1 of 0

      The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, called it,"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."

      The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, was taken to hospital after being shot in the abdomen by police on the scene. He underwent surgery under heavy police guard at Bellevue Hospital.

      CBC reporter Steven D'Souza told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that Saipov didn't have much of a presence on social media, "but his name does appear in various public records in various states."

      "The 29-year-old came to the U.S. in 2010 from Uzbekistan. He spent some time in Ohio. He then went to Florida and most recently was in Patterson, New Jersey," D'Souza said.

      Saipov is married with two children, and D'Souza said an acquaintance in Florida described him as a very good guy who played with his kids.

      This Snapchat video appears to show a suspect fleeing after a truck slammed into people on a NYC bike path 0:43

      Saipov had a commercial truck driver's licence and two businesses registered in his name in Ohio, according to D'Souza.

      "Most recently, [Saipov] was an Uber driver in New Jersey, and the company says he passed their background check, drove with them for about six months and made 1,400 trips with no safety-related issue," said D'Souza.

      "So nothing really there to tip police off as to what was to come."

      Note left at scene refers to ISIS

      A handwritten note was left by the rented truck, according toD'Souza. He told Tremonti that there are conflicting reports on whether it was written in English of Arabic.

      "But essentially the claims written in the note are that this attack was done for ISIS," he said.

      "At this point, it appears that the attack may have been more inspired by ISIS rather than directed by ISIS. They haven't actually, as far as I can tell, claimed responsibility for this, which experts say they sometimes don't do when the suspect was captured and is still alive."

      New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says investigators found a note referencing ISIS at the crime scene where a truck plowed into a Manhattan bike path, killing several people. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

      The attack being inspired and not directly tied to ISIS is very telling for Aisha Ahmad, author of Jihad & Co.

      "It speaks to their weakness," she told Tremonti. 

      "[It] speaks to the evolution of the type of terrorist attacks and violence that that ISIS, and groups like ISIS, want to perpetrate around the world because their capabilities have declined significantly." 

      "They're not able to send fighters overseas the way they would have wanted to. They're not able to engage in spectacular large-scale attacks. And so they're reduced to trying to inspire individuals to engage in this sort of horrendous terrorizing but relatively low cost and high impact types of attacks," said Ahmad.

      RelatedFollow the money to understand why Islamist groups succeed, says Jihad & Co author 
      Law enforcers are investigating the attack in New York City, Oct. 31. The suspect was shot at the scene and is expected to survive. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

      The attack is "a clear act of terrorism," according to Ahmad, but she said it's a difficult label to know when to use.

      "This to me ... clearly speaks to a politically motivated act of violence targeting civilians, you know, which I think is the most inclusive definition that we can come up with for an act of terrorism."

      Ahmad said some people argue whether or not to categorize mass shootings like Las Vegas as terrorism. 

      "Sometimes attacks are quickly labelled as terrorism," Ahmad said, but in cases "where the political ideology doesn't seem to be apparent, we get stuck."

      In this recent New York City attack, "the tactic itself is a terrorist tactic." What becomes more difficult to determine is if this classifies as transnational terrorism, said Ahmad.

      "If there are no real linkages between him and a group overseas then we end up coming up with the subcategories of homegrown terrorism or an inspired or lone wolf type of terrorism."

      Follow CBC.ca for updates to this story.

      Listen to the full segment above. 

      This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley and John Chipman.