WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to bolster the vetting of immigrants coming into the United States after an Uzbek man allegedly drove a truck down a bike path in New York, killing eight and injuring almost a dozen more.
“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!,” the president said in a Twitter post on Tuesday (Oct 31) night.
It was unclear what specifically Trump was ordering the Department of Homeland Security to do. Officials there referred questions to the White House, which declined to comment beyond a statement issued earlier in the day.
“My Administration will provide its full support to the New York City Police Department, including through a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” the formal statement issued in the president’s name said. “I will continue to follow developments closely.”
The New York Police Department said a driver steered a vehicle on to a bike path just north of Chambers Street in the Tribeca neighbourhood and struck multiple people. The vehicle then continued south and struck another vehicle.
The president was briefed on the incident by White House chief of staff John Kelly. White House officials did not comment directly on the investigation.
One of Trump’s top domestic priorities has been a crackdown on undocumented immigrants and a strengthening of screening procedures for foreigners seeking to enter the US.
A law enforcement official identified the driver as 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov. The New York Times said he entered the country in 2010 and that handwritten notes in Arabic found near his truck indicated allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), citing law enforcement officials.
Trump in March ordered the State, Homeland Security and Justice Departments to conduct a worldwide review of whether foreign nations should be required to provide additional information about people seeking to enter the US.
He also ordered the agencies to adopt unspecified “enhanced vetting protocols and procedures” for people seeking US visas, in order to prevent terrorists or people supporting them from entering, according to a memorandum describing the plan.
NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Sayfullo Saipov's arrival in the United States in 2010 began unceremoniously in Ohio.
"My dad introduced him as 'he's new to the United States and he's going to stay with us,'" said Bekhzod Abdusamatov, 22, who recalled Saipov as having arrived from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, knowing little English.
He was a late sleeper who was looking for a job and trying to improve his English, said Abdusamatov, who learnt from a phone notification on Tuesday (Oct 31) that Saipov had been named as the suspect in a terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.
Witnesses and the authorities said Saipov shouted "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great" in Arabic, as he carried out the attack and left handwritten notes in Arabic next to the truck, said a law enforcement official who spoke under the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Saipov is an Uzbeki national who had a green card, the law enforcement official said. He first entered the country in 2010 through Kennedy International Airport, and apparently remained in the United States after that.
On Tuesday night, law enforcement officials converged on an address in Paterson, New Jersey, believed to be Saipov's home.
Police tape kept onlookers away from Saipov's apartment building near Genessee and Getty avenues. Muslim residents walked by and some lamented that the attack was once again damaging to the image of their religion.
In a phone interview, Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, an Uzbeki immigrant, said he met Saipov in Fort Myers, Florida, several years ago when Saipov was working as a truck driver.
Saipov then moved to New Jersey and began driving for Uber. "He was a very good person when I knew him," Matkarov said. "He liked the US. He seemed very lucky and all the time he was happy and talking like everything is OK. He did not seem like a terrorist, but I did not know him from the inside."
As investigators began on Tuesday to look into Saipov's history, it became clear that he had been on the radar of federal authorities. Three officials said he had come to their attention as a result of an unrelated investigation, but it was not clear whether that was because he was a friend, an associate or a family member of someone under scrutiny or because he had been the focus of an investigation.
Over the last two years, a terrorism investigation by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Police Department and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn resulted in charges against five men from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan of providing material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Several of the men have pleaded guilty. It is unclear whether Saipov was connected with that investigation.
Shortly after the incident, Trump used Twitter to condemn the attack. “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person," Trump said in the tweet. “Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a press conference, put the death toll at eight. At least 12 others were injured.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there was no evidence of a wider plot, attributing the attack to the “actions of one individual.”
Police said the suspect, a 29-year-old man, was in custody. He was shot when he exited the vehicle while brandishing imitation firearms and is now in a hospital.
Officials said information about the incident was preliminary and said more information was to follow.