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Uzbek Suspect In New York Truck Attack Faces New Charges, Possible Death Penalty


A photo of Sayfullo Saipov is displayed at a news conference at One Police Plaza on November 1.

A U.S. grand jury has leveled 22 new charges against an Uzbek immigrant accused of running down eight people in a truck attack in New York City last month, including murder and support for the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

In an expanded indictment handed down late on November 21, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was charged with eight counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder. If convicted on the murder charges, Saipov could face the death penalty.

Saipov was arrested after he emerged from a rented truck on October 21 after using it in a rampage to run down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in lower Manhattan near where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

It was the most deadly attack in New York since the September 1, 2001 attacks.

Saipov was immediately charged with terrorism, but prosecutors took several weeks to collect evidence in bringing the murder and other new charges against him. Saipov's lawyer did not immediately comment on the expanded indictment.

Saipov's initial court appearance is scheduled for November 28. He is expected to enter a plea at that time.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the attack a "calculated act of terrorism in the heart of one of our great cities."

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said that "scores of videos and images on his cellphone" will be part of the evidence in the case against Saipov.

"Like many terrorists before him, Saipov will now face justice in an American court," Kim said. "And like New York City's response to his alleged attack, we expect that justice in this case will be swift, firm, and resolute."

William Sweeney, the head of New York's FBI office, said that despite Saipov's "intentions to inflict significant damage, death, and injury to innocent victims," the indictment shows "that the rule of law will always prevail."

Authorities said Saipov, who is being held without bail, made statements after his arrest about his allegiance to IS, which later took credit for the attack.

Authorities said in court papers that Saipov told investigators he was inspired to carry out the attack after watching a video of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi questioning "what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq."

Evidence against Saipov includes what was found on two of his phones, according to court documents. Investigators said one phone contained 90 videos and other IS propaganda, including one of a beheading and another of a tank running over a prisoner. The other phone showed a search for truck-rental outlets.

Saipov was shot by a police officer after crashing the truck into a school bus at the end of his rampage. Authorities said his injury was minor enough that he was transferred to a prison facility in Manhattan two days later.

Saipov came to the United States legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan, where officials and his family said he had no history of radicalization or trouble with the law.

He first lived in Ohio, where he was a commercial truck driver, then in Florida. He most recently lived in New Jersey with his wife and children, and worked as an Uber driver.

His sister told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service earlier this month that Saipov was "brainwashed" after he came to the United States. She said his family became alarmed when he grew a full beard in the style of some religious extremists after his 2013 marriage.

"When we first saw his picture with a beard, we got scared," Umida Saipova, 27, told RFE/RL in a telephone interview. "We don’t know who has brainwashed him."

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
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