US President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized the State Department’s “diversity visa” programme for allowing the Uzbek national behind the deadly truck attack in New York to enter the country.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
The suspect identified by media as Sayfullo Saipov, ploughed a rented pick-up truck into people on a pedestrian and bike path in Manhattan on Tuesday. He came to the US from Uzbekistan in 2010.
Each year the State Department randomly awards a limited number of visas to people from countries that have low rates of immigration to the US.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa, often called the green card lottery, grants the recipient a permanent resident card. Since 1995, around 50,000 people have been annually given the visa out of the millions who apply.
Longtime Democratic lawmaker Chuck Schumer, who now holds the position of Senate minority leader, sponsored the programme in Congress.
“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter),” tweeted Trump.
Saipov was shot by police as tried to flee the scene and is in hospital.
Uzbekistan has offered to help the United States in its investigation into the attack.
“Uzbekistan is ready to involve all its forces and means for providing assistance in the investigation of this terrorist attack,” President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on Wednesday.
“We decisively condemn all forms and manifestations of extremism and terrorism,” Mirziyoyev said in the statement posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Hours after the attack Trump said he had ordered the “extreme vetting” of foreign travelers to the US to be stepped up.
The Iranian government said the attack “reflected the brutality of terrorist groups like Daesh Islamic State,” according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi.
No link to the Islamic State has yet been confirmed by US authorities, and there has been no claim of responsibility from the terrorist group.
Uzbekistan – which is predominantly Muslim – has generally managed to avoid a spillover of Islamist extremism from neighbouring, war-torn Afghanistan.
However, Russian authorities have noted a surge in terrorism suspects from the region in recent months, following a deadly bombing on a train in St Petersburg that is believed to have been perpetrated by a man from Kyrgyzstan.