The man accused of driving a rental truck onto a crowded Manhattan sidewalk in an attack inspired by Islamic State, killing eight people and injuring 12 others, will face murder and terrorism charges in federal court in New York.
Immediately after the attacks, President Donald Trump said he would consider detaining Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov at the prison camp on the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but later backed off and said it would be better to allow him to face justice in New York, where prosecutors have become practiced at terrorism trials.
A grand jury in New York on Tuesday indicted Saipov, 29, on eight counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in the Oct. 31 attack. He also faces charges of providing support to a terrorist group and causing death with a vehicle.
“Like many terrorists before him, Saipov will now face justice in an American court,” said Joon H. Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, adding that “we expect justice in this case will be swift, firm and resolute.”
Saipov, a truck driver who emigrated from Uzbekistan in 2010, told investigators he was inspired to carry out the attack by watching Islamic State videos on his phone, according to court papers in the case. He rented the truck a week earlier so he could practice making turns, then drove it down a crowded bikeway along the West Side Highway before he collided with a school bus.
He shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” as he jumped out of the truck, authorities said. He was shot by a New York police officer.
In a tweet after the attack, Trump noted that Saipov had asked to hang the Islamic State flag in his hospital room. “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” Trump wrote.
Trump was immediately criticized for potentially interfering in a criminal case, traditionally considered off limits for presidents. Prosecutors have not said whether they plan to seek the death penalty.