By Gina Cherelus, Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A pickup truck driver killed eight people and injured more than a dozen others when he drove down a New York City bike path on Tuesday afternoon in what authorities said was a terrorist attack.
The 29-year-old driver was shot by police in the abdomen and taken into custody after he crashed the truck into a school bus and fled his vehicle, New York City Police Commissioner James O‘Neill told a news conference.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called the incident an "apparent act of terrorism."
Asked at the news conference about reports that the driver shouted "Allahu Akbar" – which is Arabic for "God is greatest" – O‘Neill said that a statement made by the suspect when he exited his truck and the general circumstances of the assault led investigators to label the incident a "terrorist event."
O‘Neill said police would not identify the driver at this time.
The attack was reminiscent of several similar attacks carried out in Europe last year.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the suspect appeared to have acted alone.
"There’s no evidence to suggest a wider plot or a wider scheme. These are the actions of one individual meant to cause pain and harm and probably death," Cuomo said at the news conference.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack a "cowardly act of terrorism."
The driver entered the bike path in lower Manhattan at 3:05 p.m., O‘Neill said, adding that he was armed with a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun.
Two children and two adults were injured when the truck plowed into the school bus, he said.
O‘Neill said the suspect was driving a rented Home Depot truck, but said police would not disclose at this time where the truck was rented.
After the attack, mangled and flattened bicycles littered the bike path, which runs parallel to the West Side Highway on the western edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River.
Of the eight people killed, six were pronounced dead at the scene and two more were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, O‘Neill said.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said 11 survivors with serious but non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospitals.
U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed on the incident, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Similar attacks in Europe last year killed dozens of people.
On July 14, 2016, a suspect drove a large truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more in an attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Five months later a 23-year-old migrant from Pakistan plowed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.
In April of this year, a failed asylum seeker careened down a busy street in a truck in central Stockholm, crashing into a department store and killing three people in what the prime minister called a terrorist attack.