World

Trump vows to end 'diversity lottery'

US President calls for death penalty for New York truck attack terrorist

WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump yesterday vowed a battery of tough measures to curb immigration after a deadly terror attack in New York, but left the White House scrambling to figure out how to fulfil his promises.

Looking to burnish his hardline image after what appeared to be the first major terrorist attack on the homeland during his administration, Mr Trump pledged sweeping changes and later called for the attacker to be put to death.

Surrounded by his cabinet, Mr Trump - who ran for the White House on a promise to end what he called "radical Islamic terrorism" - announced he was "starting the process of terminating" America's green card lottery.

"Diversity lottery. Diversity lottery. Sounds nice. It's not nice," he said.

"We're so politically correct that we're afraid to do anything."

The programme was created 27 years ago and awards US permanent resident visas to around 50,000 applicants from around the world each year.

According to Mr Trump, 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, identified by authorities as the man who ploughed a rented truck into cyclists and pedestrians on a New York City bike path on Tuesday, came to the country via the programme in 2010.

Mr Trump also floated deep changes to how terror suspects are prosecuted and said he would consider sending Saipov to Guantanamo Bay, the US military detention centre which holds suspected foreign jihadists in Cuba.

"(We) have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," Mr Trump said.

He continued his hardline rhetoric on Twitter yesterday, calling for the attacker's execution.

"NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!", he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The White House was forced to walk back some of his comments, stressing that he was not taking executive action but looking to Congress to change decades-old laws.

"We're going to continue pushing for and advocating for getting rid of this programme," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the green card lottery.

Mrs Sanders also ruled out executive action to introduce "quicker" and "greater" punishment for those guilty of terror offences.

"I believe he was voicing his frustration with the lengthy process that often comes with a case like this," Mrs Sanders said.

And just hours after Mr Trump and the White House suggested declaring Saipov an "enemy combatant" - opening the possibility of detention without charge and possible dispatch to Guantanamo - that idea was also undercut.

Prosecutors in New York quickly announced two initial charges against Saipov: provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organisation, and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Saipov, who was arrested after being shot by police, planned for weeks to undertake his attack in the name of ISIS, following online instructions from the jihadist organisation, officials said. - AFP

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