2 Nov 2017

New York truck attack: Five friends killed

6:44 am on 2 November 2017

Five of the victims of the Islamic State-inspired truck attack in New York were a group of friends from Argentina, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation.

The crashed vehicle used to kill eight people on a New York cycle lane.

The crashed vehicle used to kill eight people on a New York cycle lane. Photo: AFP

The deaths of five Argentines has been confirmed by the country's foreign ministry.

Police say the man suspected of driving into the victims on a cycle lane with a truck was inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group.

New York Police's Deputy Commissioner John Miller said that notes in Arabic claiming the attack on behalf of IS were recovered from the scene in Lower Manhattan.

The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, is an Uzbek immigrant, and was shot and injured by police. He is in hospital and under arrest.

A picture of suspect Sayfullo Saipov is displayed during a news conference about yesterday's attack along a bike path in lower Manhattan.

A picture of suspect Sayfullo Saipov is displayed during a news conference about yesterday's attack along a bike path in lower Manhattan. Photo: AFP

Mr Miller said the suspect had closely followed IS instructions from social media on how to carry out such an assault.

"It appears that Mr Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks," said Mr Miller. "He did this in the name of Isis," he added, an alternative name for IS.

It was the deadliest terror attack in the city since 11 September, 2001.

Five friends struck down

The five Argentines were part of a group of nine friends in New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from a polytechnic college in the central city of Rosario, Argentine media said.

One of the men who died, steel firm owner Ariel Erlij, helped pay for the friends' trip, La Nación newspaper reported.

The men - all aged 48 or 49 - were named as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferrucci.

Belgian officials said Anne-Laure Decadt, a 31-year-old from Staden in Flanders, was also killed. Three Belgians were wounded.

Two other victims, both Americans, have not yet been named.

The Argentine flag flies at half-mast at the high school where were graduated 30 years ago the five men killed during an attack in New York.

The Argentine flag flies at half-mast at the high school where were graduated 30 years ago the five men killed during an attack in New York. Photo: AFP

How did the attack unfold?

The suspected attacker rented the truck from a New Jersey branch of retailer Home Depot on Tuesday afternoon before driving to New York City and entering the bike lane, police said.

Video cameras show the van driving at very high speed, appearing to target bike riders and pedestrians.

After the van collided with a school bus, its driver emerged and brandished what appeared to be two weapons.

A suspect was shot and wounded by police officer Ryan Nash, 28, one of three NYPD officers who attended the scene after being alerted by witnesses.

Police say the suspect is currently being treated at Bellevue hospital, where he has been interviewed by officers.

Knives, a paint gun and a pellet gun were recovered from the scene.

Who is the suspect?

Sayfullo Saipov had reportedly lived in Tampa, Florida, and Paterson, New Jersey.

He arrived in America from Uzbekistan in 2010 and is a legal resident in the country. Uber confirmed he had been working as a driver for them.

Three officials said Mr Saipov had previously come to the federal authorities' attention because of an unrelated investigation, the New York Times reported.

Police records show he was arrested in Missouri last year over a traffic fine.

Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told President Donald Trump his country was ready to "use all forces and resources" to help investigate the attack. Uzbek officials have not yet confirmed the identity or nationality of the attacker.

Police remained at the scene of the attack overnight.

Police remained at the scene of the attack overnight. Photo: AFP

What has been the reaction?

President Trump took to Twitter to call the attacker "a very sick and deranged person", adding: "We must not allow Isis [Islamic State] to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!"

He also announced he had ordered extreme vetting to be stepped up, without elaborating further.

Mr Trump first said he wanted "extreme vetting" of immigrants during his presidential campaign last August. As president, he introduced a ban on arrivals to the US from a number of mainly-Muslim countries - a move that has been challenged legally and is due before the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

The American Civil Liberties Union civil rights group said the term extreme vetting was a "euphemism for discriminating against Muslims".

Early on Monday, he called for a "merit-based" visa system and attacked Democrat rival Chuck Schumer for having pushed for the creation of a diversity visa - or green card lottery - in the early 1990s.

A diversity visa is given to residents of countries with few immigrants to the US. A friend of Mr Saipov told the BBC the 29-year-old had obtained his residency this way.

Mr Schumer responded to Mr Trump on Twitter, saying: "Always believed & cont. to believe that immigration is good for America. President Trump, instead of politicizing & dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should focus on anti-terrorism funding which he proposed cutting in his budget."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the incident was a "cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians".

"We know that this action was intended to break our spirit. But we also know that New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence and an act meant to intimidate us," he said.

- BBC

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