NYC Terror Suspect Was Disgruntled, Planned Attack for Year

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
November 4, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant accused of attacking cyclists and pedestrians in Lower Manhattan with a truck, was unhappy with his life in the United States and, for a year, planned an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack.

Saipov, 29, allegedly killed eight and injured at least 12 in the attack. His aim, however, was to kill as many as possible, according to the federal complaint against him.

He had been preparing for the attack for a year and about two months in advance decided to use a truck. He was motivated by watching on his cellphone propaganda videos by the ISIS terrorist group, the complaint stated.

Investigators are still exploring how exactly Saipov was radicalized, but, based on accounts from his family and acquaintances, he seemed to have had problems adjusting to life in the United States.

Saipov came to America in 2010 after he obtained a green card through the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery.

But it seems he wasn’t particularly eager to become an American. He entered the lottery almost as a joke, his mother, Muqaddas Saipova, told The Wall Street Journal. It came as a surprise to him when he was picked.

“He didn’t even know what a green card was,” Saipova said.

At the time, Saipov was 22 with a fresh degree in accounting from Tashkent Financial Institute. his mother said he had a happy childhood, didn’t drink or smoke, and had good grades.

After he came to the United States, he became a truck driver.

For a short time he lived in Cincinnati, then in Cuyahoga Falls near Akron, Ohio, where he got married in 2013.

He was difficult to work with and often yelled at his customers, according to Mirrakhmat Muminov, 38, another truck driver from the small, tight-knit Uzbek community in Cuyahoga Falls.

“He wasn’t socially attached to the community, not even the Uzbek community,” said Azam Haque, a volunteer at the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, where Saipov attended prayers.

At some point Saipov moved to Florida. His truck engine blew up and he lost his job, Muminov said.

In 2016, Saipov moved to Paterson, New Jersey—a home to the second-largest Muslim community in the country. His wife, Nozima Odilova, gave birth to a boy, an addition to their two daughters.

Saipov’s mother came to visit him. She said he was unhappy, tired, and wanted to return to Uzbekistan. “I saw with my own eyes how much he was working, how hard it was for him,” Saipova said. “He said, ‘I’ll save money, and we’ll build a new house.’”

By the end of the year, however, Saipov was already planning a terrorist attack, according to the FBI.

He couldn’t get a job as a truck driver, a neighbor said, and instead, around May 2017, started driving for Uber, a ride-hailing company.

Around August or September he decided to use a truck for the attack. He rented a truck from Home Depot around Oct. 22 and practiced making turns with it, the complaint states.

On Oct. 31, he rented the truck again—for two hours. But he never returned it. Instead, he allegedly drove across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan, followed south on the West Side Highway, and near Pier 40 entered the adjacent Hudson River bike path and drove down about 4,000 feet, plowing through cyclists and pedestrians until he intentionally crashed into a school bus near the Stuyvesant High School.

He then exited the truck, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is great” in Arabic), brandished a pellet gun and a paintball gun and ran through traffic on the highway until he was shot in the abdomen by NYPD Officer Ryan Nash, 28, who was out on a different call but spotted Saipov and chased him.

A note was found in the truck he rented indicating that Saipov carried out the attack for ISIS. He actually wanted to continue to the Brooklyn Bridge and kill as many people as possible, the federal complaint stated.

Saipov is being held in a federal detention center in New York. He’s charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist group and with violence and destruction of motor vehicles causing the deaths of eight people.

On Nov. 1, the FBI said it had located another Uzbek man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the attack. Saipov had been in contact with Kadirov and another person of interest in the investigation, a U.S. law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, told Reuters.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.