Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old who is believed to have plowed his rental truck into pedestrians and cyclist in NYC earlier today reportedly left behind handwritten letters pledging his allegiance to ISIS.
According to reports, the notes were written in Arabic and were with a picture of the ISIS flag.
CBS News’ justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reports from Washington that the suspect, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, is a truck driver and has known addresses in both New Jersey and Florida. Saipov doesn’t have an extensive criminal background, Pegues reports, with CBS News only finding about four traffic tickets in his past.
The FBI and NYPD are no doubt looking into Saipov’s background, Pegues adds. Investigators believe Saipov, who arrived in the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010, was acting as a “lone wolf” and not part of a wider terror plot.
Sources tell CBS News’ senior investigative producer Pat Milton the suspect yelled “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — when he exited a rented pickup truck that he used to strike pedestrians along Manhattan’s West Side Highway.
CBS News confirms from a federal law enforcement source that a note that referenced the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was found in or near the truck used in the attack.
Federal intelligence agencies will be combing through databases looking into Saipov, Pegues reports, including where he’s traveled and who he’s been in contact with.
Authorities will also look into Saipov’s electronic devices to look for any clues that would shed light in the days and hours before the attack unfolded in lower Manhattan.
“On its face, this of course has the hallmarks of a type of attack ISIS and al Qaeda have called and that cities all across the globe have tried to guard against,” Pegues says. “What will likely help police in this investigation is that the suspect survived … but that is if the suspect cooperates.”
CBS News senior national security analyst Fran Townsend said authorities have been expecting this type of attack. After the Nice attack in 2015, Townsend reports that the NYPD has reached out — and stayed in contact with — 148 truck rental locations to try to identify the type of individuals who might carry out this type of attack. But it’s unclear where Saipov rented the truck.
Townsend reports that investigators are looking to identify Saipov’s motivation and how he was inspired. Saipov came from Uzbekistan, where there is an extremist organization called the IMU, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Townsend reports. Established in 1998, IMU moved from being an affiliate of al Qaeda to ISIS in 2015, Townsend said. Both al Qaeda and ISIS have talked about car attacks.
According to Townsend, investigators will be looking into whether he was motivated by IMU or other extremist groups and if he had any contact with him — which is one reason they will be searching Saipov’s electronic devices.
It’s interesting how quickly the media has been to identify this as a ‘terrorist attack’ when earlier this month a white man in Las Vegas gunned down 58 people.