President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that “we must not allow ISIS to return” to the U.S. after a motorist in New York City crashed into pedestrians and bicyclists, killing at least eight people in what is being investigated as a terrorism attack.
“We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” the president tweeted. Though initial reports did not directly link the attack to the terrorist group, investigators reportedly found notes in Arabic from the crime scene that showed the attacker had indicated his allegiance to the Islamic State.
The 29-year-old driver used a rented pickup truck to plow onto an active bicycle path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday, leaving a trail of bodies and mangled bikes, according to New York authorities. The driver then jumped out of the truck with what was later revealed to be a fake gun in each hand, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!,” Arabic for “God is great!,” according to officials.
The police responded by firing on him. The attacker was taken into custody, and his condition was not immediately disclosed.
Two law enforcement officials identified him as Sayfullo Saipov, a man with a Florida driver’s license who had been staying in New Jersey. Officials said Saipov legally immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010.
Trump lamented “another attack by a very sick and deranged person” on Twitter, extending his “thoughts, condolences and prayers” to the victims.
The president later said on Twitter he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to “step up” its “extreme vetting program” in response to Tuesday’s attack. Though it was unclear what specific initiative the president was referring to, the White House has taken steps to beef up its immigration restrictions in an effort to fulfill Trump’s longstanding vow to implement a policy of “extreme vetting.”
In August, the Trump administration announced expanded requirements for certain green card applicants to include an in-person interview, a move that would slow down the process. However, Trump’s travel ban, a linchpin in the White House’s plan to curb immigration, faced another setback earlier this month as its third iteration was again struck down by a federal judge.
The president was briefed on the situation in New York by his chief of staff, John Kelly, the White House said in a statement to reporters. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
The Trump administration later announced that the FBI and the New York City Police Department were mounting a joint investigation into the attack. “We offer our thanks to the first responders who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims of this cowardly attack,” the president said in a statement.
Shortly before Trump’s post, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the episode an “act of terror” during a news conference in the city, in which he revealed the death count had grown to eight.
“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians,” de Blasio said.
Speaking alongside de Blasio, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to indicate that a larger plot was afoot.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security urged law enforcement members to remain vigilant after the attack. “We have recently seen attacks like this one throughout the world,” DHS acting Secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement. Duke said that DHS was “closely monitoring” the developments in New York and that federal, state and local authorities were cooperating in investigating the episode.
First Lady Melania Trump tweeted words of condolence to the city earlier Tuesday: “My heart breaks for #NYC today. Thoughts & prayers as we monitor the situation.”
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