NEW YORK — A man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial Tuesday, killing at least eight and injuring 11 others in what the mayor called “a particularly cowardly act of terror.”
The driver was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” officials said. His condition was not immediately released.
Two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke of condition of anonymity identified the attacker as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov. He has a Florida driver’s license but may have been staying in New Jersey. The officials gave no other details on his background.
The driver barrelled along the bike path for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus. The mayhem and the burst of police gunfire set off panic in the neighbourhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.
“I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground,” said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.
Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said, “So many police came and they didn’t know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs.”
Police closed off streets across the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River and officers rushed into the neighbourhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.
“This was an act of terror, and 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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
A law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said witnesses told police the attacker yelled, “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great” in Arabic — as he got out of the truck.
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said a statement the driver made as he got out of the truck and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.
On Twitter, President Donald Trump called it “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” and declared, “NOT IN THE U.S.A.”
Cities around the globe have been on alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. The Islamic State has been encouraging its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks in recent months and years.
Police said the vehicle, a rented Home Depot truck, entered the bike path at about 3 p.m. on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center — the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history. The truck then turned at Chambers Street, near the trade centre site, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.
In addition to those killed, 11 people were seriously injured, police said.
A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said. At least two covered-over bodies could be seen lying on the path, and the front end of the pickup was smashed in.
Tom Gay, a school photographer, was on Warren Street and heard people saying there was an accident. He went down to West Street and a woman came around the corner shouting, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”
Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running southbound on West Street holding a gun. He said there was a heavyset man pursuing him.
He said he heard five or six shots and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.
The right side of the school bus was bashed in, and firefighters surrounded it and worked to free those inside.
Associated Press writers Sadie Gurman in Washington and Tom Hays and Michael Balsamo in New York contributed to this story.
Colleen Long And Jake Pearson, The Associated Press