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What We Know About New York Attack Suspect's Life, Family In Uzbekistan

A local resident walks outside the apartment block in Tashkent where Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York terror attack, reportedly lived between 1996 and 2006, according to police records.
A local resident walks outside the apartment block in Tashkent where Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York terror attack, reportedly lived between 1996 and 2006, according to police records.

New York City terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov lived most of his life with his parents in Beltepa, a middle-class district in the northwest of Uzbekistan's capital that houses high-rise residential buildings and numerous medical facilities.

The family of six resided in an apartment, which his parents have since sold, before moving to a house in Uchtepa, on Tashkent's southern outskirts.

Saipov, the eldest child and only son, grew up with three younger sisters.

Two neighbors in Tashkent contacted by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on November 1 -- one day after Saipov was apprehended near the scene in Manhattan where a pickup truck, reportedly containing notes pledging allegiance to militant Islamist group Islamic State (IS), killed at least eight people when it roared down a bicycle path -- described the Saipovs as “very secular” and “ordinary Uzbeks who don’t stand out in any particular respect.”

“His parents are far from religion," one of them said, "They don’t even pray.”

Both individuals asked that their names not be published in connection with the Saipov story.

Sayfullo Saipov
Sayfullo Saipov

Saipov’s 52-year-old father, Habibullo Saipov, and his 50-year-old mother, Muqaddas Saipova, have a small clothing stall in their local Bektopi bazaar.

A source in the country's security services, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that Saipov's mother, father, and a 17-year-old sister were being questioned on November 1.

Neighbors say the family owns a car and a private house, both signs of relative prosperity in the Central Asian country, where the average monthly salary is less than $200.

Saipov’s mother visited the United States in late 2016 and early 2017, according to Tashkent neighbors and Uzbek authorities, spending around two months with her son and his family.

A police source in Tashkent said he could not confirm reports that Sayfullo Saipov lived in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, which has a sizable ethnic Uzbek minority, before moving to the United States.

But Saipov moved to the United States, at the age of 22, after he won a U.S. green card through the official Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green-card lottery, in 2010.

Acquaintance Describes N.Y. Attack Suspect As Depressed, Argumentative
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Acquaintances of Saipov’s in the United States told RFE/RL that he did not seem to be a “religious person” when he first came to America.

It was several years later that some ethnic Uzbeks in the United States say they noticed Saipov expressing “very radical views” and becoming “aggressive” in his behavior, increasingly isolating himself from friends.

Saipov and his ethnic Uzbek wife, Nozima, met and married in the United States and have three children, the youngest of whom is 3 months old.

Saipov spent several years driving trucks and recently worked as an Uber driver.

An Ohio-based ethnic Uzbek man who knew him told RFE/RL that Saipov had expressed interest in possibly returning to his homeland after Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, during a visit to the United States for the UN General Assembly in September, called on Uzbeks abroad to come home.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service
NOTE: This article has been amended to correct an inaccurate death toll in the New York terror attack on October 31.
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.