The man charged with the New York truck attack that killed eight people and injured a dozen more told investigators he “felt good” about the crime and asked to have ISIS flags put up in his hospital room, charge documents say.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who migrated to the US from Uzbekistan in 2010, was charged Thursday with providing material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organisation – Islamic State – and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.
Other charges are certain to follow.
Saipov is accused of driving a truck down a bike path near the World Trade Center in what was New York’s worst terror attack since the September 11, 2001, Twin Towers tragedy.
He appeared in the New York federal courthouse Thursday in a wheelchair, handcuffed and with his feet shackled.
Saipov’s lawyers said they were not seeking bail. He did not enter a plea to terrorism charges and his next court date November 15.
Federal prosecutors said Saipov was “consumed by hate and a twisted ideology”, and meticulously planned the attack.
They said he left a note in his vehicle proclaiming that the “Islamic State would endure forever”.
The soon-to-be father of three was shot by police after the attack, but is expected to recover.
In a hospital-bed interview with investigators, Saipov “requested to display ISIS’s flag in his hospital room and stated that he felt good about what he had done,” a federal criminal complaint stated.
Prosecutors said Saipov was inspired by the ISIS videos he watched, in particular one showing IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and had rented a truck to practice the turns he would make on the day.
It is also alleged he planned to strike the iconic Brooklyn Bridge as well as the bike path.
After crashing into a school bus, Saipov is alleged to have jumped out with a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great”.
He was brought down by NYPD officer, Ryan Nash, who fired nine shots at Saipov, hitting him in the abdomen.
Prosecutors said Saipov had been planning the attack for months.
Saipov told he began planning an attack a year ago, according to the criminal complaint.
Saipov decided to conduct a truck attack “to inflict maximum damage against civilians” and that he specifically chose to strike on Halloween “because he believed there would be more civilians on the street for the holiday,” it said.
Joon H Kim, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told a media conference that Saipov’s mobile phone contained thousands of IS-related photos and videos.
Mr Kim outlined the evidence that investigators found in Saipov’s phones as well as a note that was left at the scene.
He said the suspect’s note read in part: “No god, but God. And Mohammed is his prophet and Islamic supplication. It will endure.”
Mr Kim said the phrase, “It will endure,” is commonly used in reference to IS.
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New York Police Department deputy commissioner John Miller earlier told a news conference Saipov closely followed IS instructions on committing a terror attack.
“He appears to have followed almost exactly to a ‘T’ the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack,” he said.
Just hours earlier, US President Donald Trump raised the prospect of sending Saipov to prison at the notorious Guantánamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.
It was not clear however whether it would be constitutionally valid.
“Send him to Gitmo, I would certainly consider that, yes,” the President said in answer to reporters’ questions in Washington.
Mr Trump also announced he would terminate the popular US green card lottery system, which awards permanent visas to around 50,000 applicants a year from countries typically under-represented in US immigration.