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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Terror attack returns U.S. eyes to ex-U.S.S.R. jihadists

A photo of Sayfullo Saipov is displayed at

A photo of Sayfullo Saipov is displayed at a news conference at One Police Plaza Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Manhattan. Credit: AP

Only last Friday, an Uzbek citizen named Abdurasal Juraboev, 27, was sentenced to 15 years in Brooklyn federal court for having conspired locally to provide material support to the Islamic State group.

Four days later, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, formerly of Uzbekistan, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ after allegedly committing mass murder with a rented truck in lower Manhattan.

Whether the criminal cases are related by more than just category remains to be explored in official investigations of the latest terror attack on U.S. terrain.

For the Trump administration, however, the matter at some level can be expected to turn new attention toward the Central Asian nation, once part of the Soviet Union.

Uzbekistan has never been on President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban list, still contested in court. But the president announced Tuesday, “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already extreme vetting program.”

What, if anything, this means in practical terms remains to be seen in the immediate aftermath of the carnage, which is the first to be linked on Trump’s watch to Islamic fundamentalism.

Jihadists with roots in predominantly Muslim former Soviet territories such as Dagestan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Chechnya have carried out other attacks in the U.S. and internationally in recent years.

For example, the Tsarnaev brothers, involved in the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks, were Kyrgyz-Americans of Chechen descent.

Any conversation about this region, of course, leads to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has faced radical Islamic rebellion in his own country, and has said thousands of people have left Central Asia to team up with ISIS in the Mideast.

Trump indicated during last year’s campaign that he and Putin could improve cooperation in fighting terrorism, though U.S.-Russia relations, by all accounts, have deteriorated.

One political hot button, of course, is immigration, and Trump was pushing it.

In a tweet blurt, Trump blamed the visa lottery program that he linked to Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy,” Schumer replied.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a possible 2020 presidential candidate who appeared at a morning briefing in the city, drew attention with his statement that Saipov “was associated with ISIS and he was radicalized domestically.”

“And he is a depraved coward.”

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