TAMPA (CBSMiami) — Federal agents are checking on the former addresses of terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov, after eight people were killed and nearly a dozen others were injured in a vehicle attack in lower Manhattan.
Saipov, 29, a native of Uzbekistan, came to the U.S in 2010 and lived for a time in Tampa and Ft. Myers.
Tuesday night, law enforcement visited the apartment complex in Temple Terrace, on the east side of Tampa, where Saipov used to reside. A neighbor told CBS News Saipov and his family moved about six or seven months ago, even giving a computer away to a neighbor, who later donated it to charity.
Saipov was married with possibly two children, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Most recently, he lived in New Jersey where he worked as a truck driver and an Uber driver. He didn’t have an extensive criminal background but did have four tickets on his record. He still has a Florida driver’s license.
Saipov entered the U.S. legally because of the so-called Diversity Visa Lottery, which grants about 55,000 visas per year to applicants from countries that don’t send many émigrés to the United States.
On Tuesday, Saipov reportedly drove a rented Home Depot truck through a bike path just north of where the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers once stood and collided with a school bus. He then got out of the truck, brandishing two guns and yelling “Allahu Akbar” before being shot by a police officer. The guns turned out to be a pellet gun and paintball gun.
A federal law enforcement source told CBS News that a note referencing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was found in or near the truck used in the attack. The New York Times reported there were actually two notes, written in Arabic, that included a pledge of allegiance to ISIS.
Members of Tampa’s Muslim community are disturbed.
“Islam is whole different, it’s not like that,” said Mohammad Shaar. “It’s peaceful, there is something in our Koran that says if you kill one human it’s like killing all humanity.”
Five of those killed were Argentinian, childhood friends who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. A Belgian woman visiting the city was also among the dead.
Hassan Shibly with the Council on American Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, called the act “disgusting.” Shibly said he’s horrified by the attack.
“Of the worst crimes against God is to shed the blood of his creation while using his holy name. God is the creator of all things, how can you attack God’s creation and use God’s name? That is an offense against God and against humanity,” said Shibly. “He doesn’t represent Tampa, he doesn’t represent the faith he claims to represent, he doesn’t represent the culture he’s from. He represents nothing but his deranged self.”
Saipov was rushed into surgery and is in critical condition, but expected to survive.
Former CIA operative Robert Baer told CNN he thinks Saipov will give up what he knows.
“These guys over time are breakable. He’ll start giving up contacts, spiritual leaders, people that agree with him on various things whether it’s Tampa or New Jersey. This will lead to arrests. We will break down, if there’s a cell, it will be broken down over time,” he said.
If he has any associates in Tampa or elsewhere, Baer says tracking them down may be especially hard if they’re also from Uzbekistan.
“The Uzbek community in this country and in Uzbekistan, especially the fundamentalists, are one of the most insular communities in the world. They’re very hostile to the west. I used to work there. It’s a nightmare for intelligence services, it’s going to be a nightmare for the FBI to get to the bottom of this Uzbek community,” Baer said.
Law enforcement said they believe Saipov acted as a lone wolf, not as part of a wider terror plot.