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One man who witnessed a truck plow into people on a busy Lower Manhattan bike path said when it happened, it sounded like gunshots. New York City’s mayor said at least eight people died from attack.
USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Five men from Argentina who were in New York City to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from high school were among the eight people killed when an attacker plowed a rented pickup truck through a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan.

The suspect, who has been identified as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old truck driver from Uzbekistan, collided with a school bus near the World Trade Center memorial before he emerged screaming in Arabic and pointing imitation guns Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that all evidence points to a “lone wolf attack” by the perpetrator.

“All you need is a vehicle, a car, a truck,” Cuomo told WCBS radio. “The Internet is now the training ground.”

The suspect was shot in the stomach by police and taken into custody. He is expected to survive. A paintball gun and pellet gun were recovered from the scene, the NYPD said.

Eleven people suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries. Witnesses described a terrifying scene with people diving from the path of the speeding truck.

More: Uzbek man identified as truck driver who allegedly killed 8 in New York City

More: New York City terror attack: What we know now

NBC News reported that police found a note in the truck that indicated the suspect claimed to have acted for the Islamic State, citing law enforcement sources. The report couldn’t be independently verified by USA TODAY.

Argentina’s foreign ministry named five of the victims, all men from the central city of Rosario, as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi.

It said a sixth man, Martin Ludovico Marro, was recovering at the Presbyterian Hospital of Manhattan, where he is out of danger. 

One of the dead was from Belgium, the country’s foreign ministry said. Didier Reynders, the Belgian deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, told the Belga news agency the woman, from the city of Roulers, was visiting New York with her sister and mother. He said three Belgians were injured. 

The attack occurred at about 3:05 PM ET,  just hours before the city’s Halloween parade and festivities were to begin. It was confirmed as a terror incident by authorities. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to be vigilant — but not afraid.

“This was an act of terror and a cowardly act of terror,” de Blasio said, noting that New York City won’t react with fear. “We will respond as we always do, we will be undeterred.”

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Witnesses told police the attacker yelled, “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great” in Arabic — as he got out of the truck, AP reported, citing an official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked about that at a news conference, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle.” He said the statement and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.

More: NYC terror attack: At least some victims were from Belgium, Argentina

More: NYC terror attack: ‘A lot of blood, a lot of people on the ground’

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Trump called the suspect a “terrorist” and claimed he got into the country on a visa program that Trump blamed on Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Although it was not immediately clear the suspect had received such a visa under the 20-year-old Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which offers a limited number of visas to people from areas that have relatively few immigrants in the United States.

The program was part of a broader immigration package that was passed by Congress in a bipartisan vote in 1990 and signed into law by a Republican president, The Washington Post reports..

Trump also called for “much tougher” vetting and said he had called on the Department of Homeland Security to step up “our already Extreme Vetting Program,” although the suspect’s homeland, Uzbekistan, is not on Trump’s current list of country’s where visa-seekers should be given closer scrutiny.

In response, Schumer issued a statement Wednesday saying he continues to believe that immigration is good for America and called on Trump “instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy” to rescind his proposed cuts to anti-terrorism funding.

The truck used in the terror attack remained at the scene near the intersection of West St. and Chambers St. early Wednesday as investigators continued to check the vehicle for evidence.

As a result, traffic was rerouted away from West Street, a busy route in southern Manhattan’s Tribeca area that’s typically used by motorists traveling to and from the nearby Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

A U.S. official familiar with the investigation said Saipov is from Uzbekistan and came to the U.S. in 2010. The official was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Saipov rented the van Tuesday afternoon at about 2 p.m., about an hour before the attack.

President Trump tweeted: “My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!”

He later tweeted: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

Last month, Trump resumed refugee admissions into the United States, signing an executive order that lifted his previous seven-month moratorium and replacing it with what he has called “extreme vetting.”

Six U.S states want to be parties in a lawsuit by Hawaii challenging Trump’s proposed ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries, as well as North Korea and some Venezuelan officials. Uzbekistan is not on the list.

Leaders around the world condemned the attack.

A tweet from the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May, whose country has been the victim of a series of deadly terror attacks this year, said:  “Appalled by this cowardly attack, my thoughts are with all affected. Together we will defeat the evil of terrorism. UK stands with #NYC.”

Donald Tusk, a European union leader, added: “Another sickening but futile attempt to terrorise the people of #NYC and the free world. Europe stands by America.”