Bloodbath in downtown New York City after driver mows down pedestrians and cyclists

FRIENDS say he was a ‘very good guy’, but the New York terrorist’s true nature has emerged as more people tell of his bizarre behaviour.

HE’S been described as a “very friendly Uber driver” by friends, but the New York terrorist’s true nature has been revealed as more people tell of his erratic behaviour.

Details are beginning to emerge about Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old who came to America seven years ago from his native Uzbekistan, after his deadly vehicle attack in lower Manhattan.

At least eight people are dead and 11 others injured after Saipov drove the wrong way at high speed down a bike path near the World Trade Centre site at 3.15pm local time (5.15am AEDT).

Saipov’s former neighbour from Tampa told the New York Daily News he was known in the complex as an “aggressive driver” and once had an argument with him over an incident in the parking lot.

The neighbour said Saipov and his family kept to themselves.

The former Uber driver was also described as an “erratic” customer who berated the cashiers at his local supermarket.

‘HE WOULD GET ANGRY VERY FAST’

Saipov was notorious for his behaviour at the Farm Boy Super Fresh Supermarket on Getty Venue in Paterson, New Jersey, the manager told the New York Post.

“Every time he came here he was always erratic or arguing with the cashiers,” she said. “He would get angry very fast …. he would break the cans, dumb things.”

The manager, who declined to give her name, said Saipov was very rude to the cashiers, and called them “uneducated.”

“I feel like he was prejudice to the cashiers — whether they were covered or not in a hijab — he would belittle them,” the manager said.

“Soda was the problem. He would come here and buy soda.

“He would give us a hard time on the 12-pack Canada Dry — if it was one price he would want his own price. It was always the soda, always a problem with the 12-pack of cans. Always a problem.”

It comes after a friend of the suspected terrorist described him as a “very good guy”.

Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, met Saipov in Florida about five years ago shortly after Saipov came from Uzbekistan, reports the New York Post.

“He is very good guy, he is very friendly … he is like little brother … he look at me like big brother,” Matkarov said by phone Tuesday from his home in Miamisburg, Ohio.

Matkarov said he’d been working for Uber and living in New Jersey as recently as this summer.

He was shocked when he learned that Saipov mowed down eight people in Lower Manhattan and didn’t know him to have any terrorist connections.

UBER SPEAKS OUT

Uber released a statement Tuesday night saying Saipov passed a background check to become an Uber driver and had been actively driving on the platform for more than six months. Saipov has since been banned from the Uber app.

The company says it has reached out to law enforcement to provide its full assistance and is “aggressively and quickly reviewing” the suspect’s history with Uber.

Uber says it is “horrified by this senseless act of violence.”

ATTACKER LEFT A NOTE

Saipov rented a utility vehicle from Home Depot just an hour earlier before smashing it into a school bus outside Stuyvesant High School.

He then fled the vehicle armed with a pellet gun and a paint ball gun, reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is great”.

Witnesses initially said they heard gunfire but it now appears that was from responding officers, who shot the attacker in the stomach.

He was taken into custody and remains under guard in hospital.

While his motive is unclear, police found a handwritten note in the ute pledging allegiance to the terror group Islamic State, along with a photo of the sect’s flag.

Six people were declared dead at the scene and two others died later in hospital, police said.

They believe this was a “lone wolf attack“ and not part of a wider plot but New York has been placed on high alert.

There’s little doubt the incident was a terror attack, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference just hours after the incident.

“Let me be clear, based on the information we have at this moment this was an act of terror and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor de Blasio said.

Police confirmed the suspect “made a statement” consistent with terrorism but would not say what it was.

According to NBC, the suspect drove at least 10 blocks down the popular West Side Highway bike path from West Houston Street to Chambers Street, before crashing outside Stuyvesant High School.

Late on Tuesday evening local time, police surrounded the Home Depot in New Jersey where he rented the utility about an hour before carrying out the attack.

His own Toyota mini-van, with Florida numberplates, were found at the scene.

THE VICTIMS

Information about victims of the rampage have has started to emerge, with officials identifying the nationalities of some who died, reports the New York Post.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that five friends from the country — who were in town celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation — were among the dead.

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister for Belgium, wrote on Twitter that at least one the victims was Belgian.

“I am deeply saddened to announce a Belgian victim in Manhattan,” he tweeted. “I express my condolences to the family and friends.”

According to Reynders, three other Belgians were “also wounded” during the incident and “in the operating room” undergoing surgery on Tuesday night. The extent of their injuries was not clear.

The Argentinians who were killed were identified by officials as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi.

According to the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion, Erlij is a 48-year-old businessman from the central Argentinian city of Rosario. He reportedly paid his friends’ way to the Big Apple so they could all be together for the anniversary. The group graduated in 1987.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has confirmed that two staff members and two students were among those who were hurt. They had been on a school bus, which was struck by suspected terrorist Sayfullo Saipov.

One of the students is reportedly in critical condition.

SHOCKING SCENES

Witness Eugene Duffy was crossing a street when he heard something, turned back and saw the ute on the bike path.

That’s when he saw the bodies of two men on the ground, their bikes mangled and vehicle skid marks across their torsos.

He ran south and saw a yellow school bus that appeared to have been T-boned and firefighters trying to get passengers out.

Two adults and two children on the bus were injured, ABC News reported.

Uber driver Chen Yi said he saw “a lot of blood and a lot of people on the ground” in the aftermath.

His passenger, Dmitry Metlitsky, said he saw police standing near a man who was on his knees with his hands up, and another man bleeding on the ground nearby.

Muhammad Mazhar, 20, said he was on a break from school and standing on the overpass of the West Side Highway when he saw the driver walking along the road with a gun pointed at the ground.

“He was walking like he had done nothing wrong,” he told News Corp Australia. “People are saying he was saying Allahu Akbar but I never heard that.”

Mr Mazhar said he had only moved to New York four months ago but that he refused to be scared by the terrorist attack.

Some witnesses said they initially thought it was a Halloween prank.

“We thought the guns were fake and it was a Halloween prank,” high school student Laith Bahlouli, 14, told the told The New York Post.

“There was a car crash, and then he started to shoot. he came out of the car. He had two guns. He was running around Chambers (St) and somebody started to chase him I heard four to six gunshots — everybody starts running.”

The scene in downtown New York was an odd mix of emergency service personnel and children dressed up in Halloween outfits heading out to trick or treat.

Community college student Ruben Cabrera said when he first heard the gunshots he saw some kids in Halloween outfits running away from the scene laughing.

“I thought that can’t possibly be a shooting,” he told News Corp Australia. “I walk over and I see EMS and police officers running over, and I’m like, ‘this really just happened’.

“In the bike lane, I saw two bodies covered with white sheets, and I saw bikes next to them and the bikes looked like they were run over by a vehicle. I looked and saw EMS trying to assist him.”

Chilling NYPD radio audio recorded in the immediate aftermath includes shaken officers describing the sight of the “mass casualty situation” before them.

“There’s multiple people on the ground, central. We need buses all the way up to Houston, Central,” one officer says urgently, according to a tape obtained by CBS. “I’ve got four or five people on the ground.”

Another cop says, “We got multiple casualties. This is a mass-casualty situation here.”

Video from the scene showed people lying limp in the street and photos show a smashed up Home Depot rental ute. Sources said the number of casualties was 11.

“Jesus! A car just ran over 2 people and then crashed into a school bus. I see two dead bodies and citibikes on the floor destroyed,” one Twitter user wrote.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to declare “NOT IN THE USA” and offer his condolences, while Vice President Mike Pence said those responsible for the attack “must be held accountable.”

In a later statement released by the White House, President Trump said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s terrorist attack in New York City and their families.

“My administration will provide its full support to the New York City Police Department, including through a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We offer our thanks to the first responders who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims of this cowardly attack. These brave men and women embody the true American spirit of resilience and courage. I will continue to follow developments closely.”

According to a tweet from New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, a French pro-ISIS group announced a general threat on Halloween.

Major cities across America are now on high alert, including Chicago and Los Angeles, with major events to celebrate Halloween due to take place.

The LA Times reports extra officers will patrol the annual West Hollywood Halloween parade.

New York’s annual Halloween parade, which runs down Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street, is still going ahead, according to officials.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference that New Yorkers should continue living their lives as normal despite the attack.

Governor Cuomo has increased security at airports, bridges, tunnels and mass transit systems around the state.

The New York Marathon, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, will also go ahead as planned, reports ESPN.

Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop said Australian authorities are monitoring the situation in Manhattan.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragedy,” she said on Channel Seven’s Sunrise program. “We will obviously keep people updated.”

Authorities are not aware of any Australians involved in the attack.

“New York officials have advised that the incident was an act of terror and are not aware that any Australians have been directly affected,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said today.

DFAT has advised that any Australians concerned about the welfare of family and friends in New York should first attempt to contact them directly, then reach out to the department’s 24 hour consular emergency hotline on 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas and unable to reach them.

The Australian Consulate General in New York is in close contact with US authorities about the attack.

This is the second time in recent history that a vehicle has been used to attack New Yorkers. On May 18, 2017, a young woman was killed and 20 injured after Navy veteran Richard Rojas drove a vehicle through the crowd in Times Square.

Rojas, 26, told police after he was arrested that he wanted the police to shoot him, and said that he wanted to “kill them all”

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