Islamic State Praises NYC Truck Jihadi as ‘Soldier of the Caliphate’

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An Islamic State publication has referred to Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek jihadi arrested for the deaths of eight people in Manhattan this week, as a “caliphate soldier” and praised him for driving a pickup truck through a bicycle lane in an attempt to kill as many people as possible.

The article on Saipov, in the Islamic State publication al-Naba, does not specify whether Saipov had any contact with high-ranking members of the Islamic State in the Middle East or Afghanistan, where ISIS has established a significant presence. Saipov shouted “allahu akbar” upon exiting his vehicle after the attack, carried papers with Islamic State messages on them in the truck, and authorities claim he demanded an Islamic State flag to display in his hospital room.

Jenan Moussa, a reporter for Arabic Al Aan TV, translated the article from al-Naba, noting that the Islamic State typically makes claims of terrorist attacks through its Amaq News Agency and that this document read “more like a news article than claim of responsibility”:

The Islamic State did not provide any new insider details on Saipov, or any information that indicates that those who control Islamic State propaganda had any contact with Saipov. Instead, the article celebrates that Saipov, “spread—with the grace of God—terror inside crusader America which caused them to increase security procedures and tightening the rules on immigrants entering the U.S.”

The article also reiterates the Islamic State claim that Stephen Paddock was executing an attack on behalf of the terrorist group when he opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month, killing over 50 people. ISIS refers to Paddock as “Abu Abdul Bir al Amriki.” The Islamic State has not provided any information connecting them to Paddock and police have found no evidence yet that Paddock was influenced by the terrorist group or had any jihadist leanings.

Prosecutors have charged Saipov on two counts of providing material support to a terrorist organization and violence and destruction of motor vehicles. The criminal complaint states that, following the attack, Saipov told authorities that he “felt good about what he had done” and requested that an ISIS flag be displayed in his hospital room. He is recovering from a gunshot wound after being hit in the abdomen by NYPD officer Ryan Nash.

Police have since found 90 Islamic State videos and nearly 4,000 images of ISIS propaganda in his cell phone.

“It appears that Mr. Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said in a press conference Wednesday. “He did this in the name of ISIS, and along with other items recovered on the scene were some notes that further indicate that he appears to have followed, almost exactly to a T, the instructions that ISIS has put out to its followers on how to carry out such an attack.”

The Islamic State has published numerous magazines and online instruction manuals on how to maximize killings during a jihadist attack. One particular issue of its magazine Rumiyah called for the use of cars and trucks to run over as many people as possible and indicated that New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be an “excellent target” as it packs a high number of people in narrow streets.

Those who knew Saipov have described him as “aggressive” and sullen, though other neighbors have noted that he would sometimes share food and exchange pleasantries with those near him. The most negative criticism of him came from those who knew him in Ohio, where he first arrived after leaving Uzbekistan, his native country. One unnamed source told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that the Uzbek community there “warned him over his radical views” after a particularly heated religious argument. Mirrakhmat Muminov, another Ohioan, told the outlet that Saipov was “aggressive” but “no one understands how he became a terrorist.”

In Paterson, New Jersey, where he last lived before the attack, Saipov lived near the Masjid Omar Mosque, which the NYPD had targeted for investigation over a decade ago, until political pressure forced police to cease operating many of its Muslim surveillance programs.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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