NYC Attack Evokes Forgotten ‘Islamic State’ of Central Asia
November 9, 2017
On October 31, 2017, one Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek citizen who won the Green Card lottery to legally live and work in the United States, killed eight people in New York City, deliberately running them over with a rented pickup track. It was a terrorist attack, inspired by (if not attributed to) ISIS and whose method has become sadly familiar. Such tactics were used to even more tragic results in Nice, France on July 14, 2016. In Europe, however, many of the suspects have been of North African descent. Living in the margins, they tend to have lived lives of crime, perhaps radicalizing in jail and finding validation by identifying with ISIS, which offered a cause, an ideology that conveyed to them, in however disturbed a way, some kind of meaning as they radicalized in the banlieues of Paris and Bruxelles.
But Saipov represents an overlooked phenomenon. Many of the ISIS terrorists who have targeted soft targets in 2017 were Uzbeks. It was an Uzbek national who killed 39 people in the first hours of 2017 in Istanbul. It was also an Uzbek national who killed four people in Stockholm last July. The authorities are suggesting that Saipov radicalized in the United States, frequenting mosques known for their radical preachers. However, such suggestions overlook the fact that Uzbekistan and its neighboring states have become some of the main centers of Islamist radicalization in the world. Rather than looking to New York for explanations, Saipov’s attack should draw analysts and authorities’ attention to the growing dangers of the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia.