Manhattan terror attack: Suspect to be considered as 'enemy combatant', could be denied access to lawyer

Washington: The New York terrorist attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov would be considered as an enemy combatant, the White House said on Thursday, signalling a possible detention for him without access to normal rights.

The 29-year-old suspect, a sympathiser of the Islamic State terror group, was shot in the stomach by a police officer before being arrested.

"We would consider him to be an enemy combatant," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference, arguing that the action Saipov took "certainly justified" that.

However, she said a final determination had not been made.

Sayfullo Saipov, in a rented pickup truck, mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday. AP

Sayfullo Saipov, in a rented pickup truck, mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday. AP

"I don't believe that determination has been made. That's something we'll wait until we get a little further into the process," she said.

The designation would mean Saipov could be denied access to a lawyer and detained indefinitely without charge.

It could also open the door to military justice and transfer to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, very much in line with what President Donald Trump said he was willing to consider earlier Wednesday.

After the 9/11 attacks, the "enemy combatant" designation was used to detain hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and sites in the greater Middle East.

Citing Wednesday's Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, Sanders said it underscores that the terrorist threat is real.

"As we defeat Islamic State and affiliated groups abroad, we must be vigilant here in our country as they seek other ways to attack the homeland. Inspiring such attacks through hateful propaganda has always been part of the strategy of Islamic State and other terrorists," she said.

Sanders said that the attack underscored the need for the most careful vetting of who enters the United States.

"There are hundreds of active law enforcement investigations into foreign nationals suspected of engaging in terrorism, and US must vet those seeking entry to the United States thoroughly, she said buttressing President Donald Trump's argument in this regard.

Hours after the attack, a million New Yorkers, including families with their children, marched through the city for a Halloween parade, she said.

"Their message was heard loud and clear: The American spirit will never be broken. Those who hope we will succumb to fear will never get what they want. And those who seek to divide us will only bring us closer together," the spokesperson said.

Sanders heaped praises on officer Ryan Nash, who joined the NYPD in 2012, and was among the first to respond to the scene. He had fired the shot that stopped the attacker from continuing the violence.

Nash, 28, who works in the New York Police Department's 1st precinct, shot and apprehended the suspect, who crashed a pickup truck into a school bus and hit cyclists and pedestrians, killing eight people and injuring 11 others.

"He's a hero, but that doesn't come as a surprise to most of his colleagues. He's already received two awards during his young career - one for Excellent Police Duty and another for other police action. Yesterday, he earned something that could never be properly displayed by a ribbon or medal; he earned the never-ending thanks of a grateful nation," she said.

Updated Date: Nov 02, 2017 06:51 AM

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