US wants death penalty for NY truck attack suspect

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, allegedly drove a rented pickup truck down a mile-long stretch of bike path in Manhattan as children and their parents prepared to celebrate Halloween on October 31, 2017. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: US federal prosecutors on Friday signalled their intention to seek the death penalty against the Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people in a New York truck rampage, should he be convicted at trial.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, allegedly drove a rented pickup truck down a mile-long stretch of bike path in Manhattan as children and their parents prepared to celebrate Halloween on October 31, 2017.

It was the deadliest attack in New York since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings brought down the Twin Towers.

Five of those killed were friends from Argentina celebrating 30 years since their high school graduation. Twelve other people were wounded. The attack only ended when police shot Saipov in the abdomen.

In court documents, prosecutors called for the death penalty given the severity of the attack, the multitude of victims, because he was likely to commit further violence in the future and because he showed no remorse.

In the wake of the attack, President Donald Trump called for Saipov to be executed, but a capital punishment case is extremely rare in New York, which has abolished the death penalty at the state level.

Saipov claimed to have acted in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group and is due to go on trial in October 2019 on a raft of terrorism and murder charges. The IS group described him as one of its “soldiers.”

The Uber driver and father-of-three has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutors said after his arrest that he felt so good about what he had done that he even demanded to hang the IS flag in his hospital room.

Prosecutors say he planned an attack for a year and chose Halloween deliberately in a bid to kill as many people as possible.