Sayfullo Saipov chose Halloween day, he told investigators, because “he believed there would be more civilians on the street for the holiday”.
Sayfullo Saipov, who mowed down eight people with his pick-up truck on Tuesday, “felt good about what he had done”, according to investigators, who also said that he sought permission to fly the Islamic State’s (IS) flags in his room.
US federal authorities also said in a court document charging Saipov with terrorism on Wednesday that he had planned the attack for a year — and not just a few weeks — and chose a truck as a weapon two months ago, from an IS playbook, and Halloween as target day to maximise the damage.
Saipov had been inspired by Islamic State videos and speeches, many of which had been stored on his cellphones, and told investigators at Bellevue Hospital, where he was taken with a gunshot wound in the abdomen, that he had wanted to display IS flags on the vehicle he had used in the attack.
He also “requested to display (Islamic State) flag in his hospital room and stated that he felt good about what he had done”, said the charging document.
The 29-year-old man, who came to the United States in 2010 and lived with his wife and children in Florida and New Jersey, had driven his pick-up through bikers and pedestrians on a bike-path in lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon killing eight people and injuring 12, in the worst terrorist attack in New York city since September 11, 2001.
Saipov was forced to abandon the vehicle that had collided against a school bus, just blocks from the 9/11 site and the memorial. He was shot by a police officer as he walked about brandishing weapons that turned out to be paintball and pellet guns. He also had knives in the truck.
The FBI, which is investigating the attack jointly with the New York police department, briefly put out a look-out notice for a second man in connection with the attack — 32-year-old Muhammad Kadirov — on Wednesday, but withdrew it soon, saying they had found him, although no details were provided.
Saipov was charged with providing material support to the IS and violence and destruction of motor vehicles. He is being tried in a civilian court and not in Guantanamo Bay, the prison complex where the US has since 9/11 held suspected terrorists without charging them for years, that President Donald Trump had earlier said he could consider.
The suspect, who had come from Uzbekistan to the United States on a diversity programme for nationals of countries with low rates of immigration to the US which the President is calling for closure, was earlier said to have planned the attack for weeks. But the charging document laid out in great detail that he had been on it for a year and his reasons for it were mostly videos, propaganda videos and speeches.
“Approximately one year ago,” the document said, “Saipov began planning an attack in the United States, and approximately two months ago… decided to use a truck in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians.”
He was particularly motivated “to commit the attack after viewing a video in which (IS founder and leader) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi questioned what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq,” the court filing said.
Investigators found approximately 90 IS-related videos, besides images, many of which were standard propaganda, on Saipov’s cellphones. One was of a prisoner being run over by a tank, another showed a prisoner shot in the face. And one of them was a manual on how to make an improvised explosive device at home.
Authorities have said that Saipov was radicalised here in the United States, and the charging documents bore that out and detailed it.
News report citing acquaintances and friends from cities Saipov had lived in drew a picture of the gradual radicalisation that became clearer over time. A preacher from a Florida mosque he attended told New York Times he had tried to prevent him from going down the path of extremism.
Saipov chose Halloween day, he told investigators, because “he believed there would be more civilians on the street for the holiday”.