Eight people died Tuesday after a man driving a motor vehicle ploughed into pedestrians and cyclists on the western side of Manhattan in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called a “cowardly act of terror.”
The driver was driving a rental pickup truck from a Home Depot store. The rampage ended when he crashed into a school bus near the Tribeca bridge, injuring two adults and two children.
They are among 11 people with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries, according to emergency services.
When he got out of the vehicle, the driver was brandishing a paintball gun and pellet gun. Officers then confronted him and shot him in the abdomen, New York’s FBI lead Bill Sweeney said, at a press conference beside De Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The New York Police Department have since identified the suspect as a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan. Local media said he was registered in Florida, but may have recently been living in New Jersey.
The man apparently shouted Allahu akbar (God is greatest) during the incident, local newspaper New York Post reported, citing unnamed police sources.
Broadcaster CNN said the suspect left a note at the scene claiming he carried out the attack in the name of extremist militia organization Islamic State.
Within hours, US President Donald Trump said he had ordered the “extreme vetting” of foreign travellers to the US to be stepped up.
“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” he wrote on Twitter.
Trump had previously tweeted that the attack was carried out by “a very sick and deranged person,” then appeared to link the incident to Islamic State.
“We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” he wrote on the social media site.
Eyewitness Eugene Duffy, 43, said he saw the vehicle driving in the bike lane for two or three blocks and going at around 40 to 50 miles per hour.
“It seemed like it was accelerating – they must not have known what hit them,” Duffy told dpa.
Victims were lying next to their bikes and “everything was mangled,” Duffy said.
“One gentleman’s leg was hanging by skin, the other gentleman had tyre marks going across his chest, his eyes were open.”
“If [the driver] was going slow speed those two guys would still be here. But he was going very fast.”
“He wasn’t zigzagging, he was going straight down the bike path. To me the first thing I thought was: terrorist. When I saw the bodies I thought it was terrorists right away.”
Five Argentinians were among the dead and another Argentine citizen was injured, the country’s foreign office confirmed.
The group of tourists, who had travelled from Rosario, 300 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, were on a bike tour through Manhattan when they were struck by the attacker, according to the Infobae news website.
Another of the dead was Belgian, as were three of the injured victims – a mother, father and child from the same family who are undergoing surgery.
De Blasio said it was a “painful day” for the city.
“From what we know right now, this was an act of terror, and a cowardly act of terror aimed at civilians, aimed at people going about their lives with no idea what this was about,” the mayor said.
Security will be stepped up in New York as a precaution after the attack, but there is no evidence of an ongoing threat, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
A Halloween parade scheduled to take place in Manhattan on Tuesday night went ahead as planned.
The US Department of Homeland Security has been briefed and is closely monitoring the situation and working with its federal, state and local partners, it said in a statement.