Tuesday afternoon, a truck ran down pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists in Lower Manhattan, killing at least eight. The identity of the alleged attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, has been known for only an hour or two as I write this, but as usual, the details strongly suggest that the man was a complete idiot. He had several models of truck-based terror from which to learn, including that of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed 89 people in Nice on Bastille Day last year. The Islamic State even published a manual that specified the type of truck to rent, and the type of area to attack, for maximum infidel carnage.
Saipov learned nothing from these horrific examples. He emerged from his pickup with what news accounts are describing as a “fake gun,” in one of the most heavily policed areas of Manhattan. The police of the First Precinct “lit him up,” a law-enforcement official told The New York Times, and Saipov is now in custody. As we mourn the dead, we should keep in mind that this attack could have been much worse. It partly resembles Nice, or the Berlin Christmas-market attack. But it also resembles something more pathetic—a suicide by cop.
Media reports indicate that Saipov, a Muslim of Uzbek descent, yelled “Allahu akbar” on the scene, used (however poorly) a signature jihadist tactic, and left a note in the truck declaring his loyalty to isis. All of this strongly suggests New York has witnessed its first fatal terror attack by a follower of the Islamic State. Up to now, according to Seamus Hughes of George Washington University, 143 people have been arrested for Islamic State–related terror offenses in the United States, and about a third of them were planning domestic attacks. (Others were planning journeys to Syria, with the likely intention of fighting there.) So of course one such attack eventually came to fruition and claimed lives. We always knew one would. New York could manage only so many innings of shutout play, and it has held jihadists scoreless since September 11, 2001.