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Islamic State Extremist Group Calls New York Attacker 'Soldier Of Caliphate'


Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack, as seen in a courtroom sketch

The Islamic State extremist group on November 3 called the attacker accused of killing eight people in a truck rampage in New Yorka "soldier of the caliphate," according to a U.S.-based extremist monitoring group.

"One of the soldiers of the Islamic State attacked a number of crusaders on a street in New York City," said an article in the group's al-Naba weekly newspaper, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, has been charged with terrorism in connection with the October 31 attack in which he allegedly used a rented pickup truck to mow down bicyclists and pedestrians on a mile-long stretch of bike path near where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Prosecutors say Saipov confessed to being inspired by IS and "felt good about what he had done," even demanding to hang an IS black flag in his hospital room as he was recuperating from being shot by police in the abdomen.

Police said Saipov appeared to have followed very closely instructions IS has disseminated online on how to stage such truck attacks.

IS's embrace of Saipov came after U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly called for a death sentence for Saipov on November 2, At the same time, Trump appeared to rule out a sending him to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a series of tweets on Twitter.

Prosecutors in presenting their case against Saipov highlighted evidence that he sympathized with IS. Prosecutors have not said he acted alone, but New York's governor and other authorities have said they believe it was a "lone wolf" attack inspired by IS.

Court documents said the Uzbek immigrant had kept thousands of IS propaganda photos and videos on his cell phone, some showing gruesome executions of IS prisoners.

Questioned in his hospital bed, Saipov said he had been inspired by IS videos that he watched on his cellphone, and began plotting an attack about a year ago, FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers.

In the past few years, IS online posts have exhorted followers to use vehicles, knives, or other readily available means of killing people in their home countries.

England, France, Sweden, Spain, and Germany are among the countries which have all seen similar deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016, often by suspects that police said were followers of IS.

Acquaintances of Saipov have told RFE/RL that he appeared to be radicalized only after leaving Uzbekistan and moving to the United States in 2010.

While embracing Saipov as an adherent of its extreme brand of Islam, IS provided no evidence that the group was directly responsible for the New York attack. Its claims of responsibility for previous mass killings have not always been borne out by evidence.

Intelligence officials have said that as IS has rapidly lost territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria this year, it has put more effort into trying to inspire and sponsor attacks overseas.

"The grace of Allah, the operation instilled fear in crusader America, prompting them to increase security measures and intensify actions against immigrants to America," IS said in the al-Naba article, according to SITE.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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