NEW YORK – From his hospital bed, Sayfullo Saipov proudly told the researchers how he had rented a truck and a deadly run down cyclists and pedestrians on a New York City bike path, all in the name of the Islamic State.
He assured them that he acted alone. The AMERICAN counter-terrorism agents want to make sure.
Since the attack, which killed eight people, the New York Police Department and the FBI have been working behind the scenes to study his past, his family and friends, studying his mobile phone and online activity, and search for all the clues that can identify others plotting similar attacks.
That search has already revealed cases where Saipov had contact with other people who had drawn law enforcement scrutiny.
“What we are looking at how he has touched the topics of the other studies, what is his connectivity with the people,” said John Miller, the NYPD’s top counter-terrorism official.
Saipov, 29, came to the U.S. legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan, where officials say he had no history of trouble with the law. He first lived in Ohio, where he was a commercial truck driver, than Florida. He most recently lived in New Jersey with his wife and children, and worked as an Uber driver.
Since Saipov’s arrest, the researchers have tried to determine whether he had interactions with other terror suspects, including four Uzbeks charged in a separate case in Brooklyn with conspiring to support the Islamic State of the group. Prosecutors accused them of seeking to travel to Pakistan to fight for the group.
The FBI has also learned that Saipov was at a wedding two years ago that was also attended by another immigrant from Uzbekistan, which was — and remains — in the framework of the research.
Agents have also interviewed many people who knew Saipov, including a friend who was asked for the hours over several days. So far, that the man, a fellow immigrant from Uzbekistan, is only a question of a witness, according to two law enforcement officials.
Researchers have interviewed Saipov wife, co-operative, provided, however, that there is no evidence, and a visit to a mosque in New Jersey, where the suspect lived, said one of the officials. Both officials were not authorized to provide the detail of the probe and who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The FBI in Ohio has also questioned the members of an Uzbek community about Saipov. And it is certainly the researchers would like to speak with 23 other people that President Donald Trump said mentioned Saipov as a contact on immigration forms.
Counter-terrorism experts say the investigators are scouring Saipov’s contacts and communication, and to see if anyone challenged his plans for violence, spoke about how to become a member or make a donation has done, even without knowing it.
Governments can compare with the information to intelligence databases with names and other data of AMERICAN institutions have collected, said Jeffrey letter sharp, a former special agent for the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task force member, who now works for the Soufan Group, a private security firm.
In a case like Saipov’s “can lead to all sorts of spin-off research,” letter sharp said. It could, Saipov acted alone, “but only if that is established, everything needs to be looked at,” he added.
Saipov was charged with federal terrorism offenses that could qualify him for the death penalty. According to a criminal complaint, the Uzbek immigrant statements about his allegiance to the Islamic State of the group, who later took credit for the attack.
The complaint also describes how a search of two mobile phones has already resulted in a wealth of evidence against the defendant. Contained 90 videos and other Islamic State propaganda, including a beheading and another of a tank that is about a prisoner. The other phone showed a search for truck rental outlets.
Saipov told investigators he was inspired to carry out the attack after watching a video of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to ask “what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq,” the court papers said.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.