THE ‘lone wolf terrorist’ who mowed down cyclists and pedestrians before smashing into a school bus, killing eight and injuring a dozen more, left a note pledging allegiance to IS.
At least eight people are dead after Sayfullo Saipov, 29, drove the wrong way at high speed down a bike path in Battery Park City near the World Trade Centre site at 3.15pm local time (5.15am AEDT).
Just hours later, three people have reportedly been shot in the Bronx after gunfire broke out. The condition of the victims is currently unknown and police are still searching for the suspect.
In the earlier attack, the utility vehicle, rented from Home Depot just an hour earlier, smashed into a school bus outside Stuyvesant High School.
Saipov then fled the vehicle armed with a pellet gun and a paint ball gun, reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar” - Arabic for “God is great”.
The man left a handwritten note in the ute “pledging his allegiance” to Islamic State along with a picture of the IS flag, NBC reports.
Witnesses initially said they heard gunfire but it now appears that was from responding officers, who shot the attacker in the stomach.
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.
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.
“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 lofficers 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.
The motive for the attack remains unclear but the details are beginning to emerge about the alleged perpetrator.
Kobiljon Matkarov, 37, met Saipov in Florida about five years ago shortly after he came from Uzbekistan and the two connected over their mutual heritage.
“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.
The attacker had been working for Uber and living in New Jersey as recently as this summer.
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 Yorlk 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.”
“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”.
Vehicles have been increasingly used as weapons in frightening urban attacks, with seven such incidents taking place this year alone.
Fourteen people were killed and more than 100 injured when a van mowed down pedestrians in the popular Las Ramblas strip in the Spanish city of Barcelona. The driver was 17-year-old Moussa Oukabir, who stole his older brother’s ID to rent the van.
Two more people were killed in other attacks related to the incident — a man was stabbed in death in a carjacking as the driver made a getaway and a woman died in and vehicle-and-knife attack in nearby Cambrils.
Eight of the suspects involved in the attacked died, two were arrested and another two let go.
One woman was killed and at least 19 people injured after a suspected neo-Nazi allegedly drove his a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
Heather Heyer, 32, was fatally injured in the attack. Justice Department officials have opened a hate crime investigation to examine whether the suspect acted alone.
Six soldiers on a counter-terrorism patrol were mowed down by a man driving a BMW in Paris. The soldiers were out on patrol in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret, north of the city centre and the Arc de Triomphe, when the attack occurred. It’s believed the driver had been waiting for soldiers to leave the barracks.
Three men in a white van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge late in the evening of June 3 before going on a knife rampage through the adjacent Borough Market precinct. Eight people were killed in the incident including two Australians, Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelanak. The three perpetrators were shot dead by police.
A 39-year-old man from Uzbekistan drove a truck into a department store in the centre of Stockholm on Friday, April 8. Four people were killed in the incident.
Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam known to British security services, drove a car at high speed into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge before launching a frenzied knife attack on a policeman guarding the parliament building. The incident killed five people.
Lunchtime shoppers in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD had to run for their lives on January 20 when a motorist mowed down pedestrians on Bourke Street. Six people died in the horrific incident and more than 30 were wounded.
A truck was deliberately driven into a Berlin Christmas market next at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured. Anis Amri, a Tunisian failed asylum seeker, was found to be a support of Islamic State.
A man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people, while they were celebrating Bastille Day. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel and Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
The following day, one person was killed and nine others injured in Nantes. Witnesses to both incidents report that both men — who have never been publicly identified — scream “Allahu Akbar” as they race toward their respective targets but authorities said in both cases the men were mentally ill.
Dutch residents watched in horror as Karst Roeland Tates, 38, drove his car into a parade celebrating a national holiday, live on TV. Eight people died in the incident, including the driver, who was allegedly targeting members of the Dutch royal family.