IS claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tack

Ve­hi­cle loaded with gas cylin­ders was an arse­nal set to blow up on eve of busy week­end in Mel­bourne

Saturday Star - - WORLD -

A KNIFE-WIELD­ING man stabbed three peo­ple, one fa­tally, in Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-largest city yes­ter­day in an at­tack that po­lice linked to ter­ror­ism.

The at­tack, dur­ing the af­ter­noon rush hour, brought cen­tral Mel­bourne to a stand­still. Hun­dreds of peo­ple watched from be­hind bar­ri­cades as po­lice tried to ap­pre­hend the at­tacker.

Po­lice said the man got out of a ve­hi­cle, which then caught fire, and at­tacked three by­standers with a knife. He also tried to at­tack po­lice who ar­rived on the scene, be­fore be­ing shot in the chest by an of­fi­cer.

The sus­pect died later at a hospi­tal. One of the vic­tims also died, while the two oth­ers were hos­pi­talised.

Po­lice said the at­tacker’s ve­hi­cle con­tained sev­eral bar­be­cue gas cylin­ders. A bomb squad ren­dered them safe.

Vic­to­ria state po­lice com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton said the sus­pect, orig­i­nally from So­ma­lia, was known to po­lice and the in­ci­dent was be­ing treated as ter­ror­ism.

“From what we know of that in­di­vid­ual, we are treat­ing this as a ter­ror­ism in­ci­dent,” Ash­ton said, adding that the po­lice coun­tert­er­ror­ism com­mand was work­ing on the case, as well as homi­cide de­tec­tives.

“He’s known to po­lice mainly in re­spect to rel­a­tives that he has which cer­tainly are per­sons of in­ter­est to us, and he’s some­one that ac­cord­ingly is know to Vic­to­rian po­lice and the fed­eral in­tel­li­gence au­thor­i­ties,” he said.

The Is­lamic State (IS) group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack in a state­ment re­leased through its Aa­maq me­dia arm. It said the man was “one of the Is­lamic State fighters” and had re­sponded to IS calls for at­tacks in coun­tries that are part of the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion fight­ing the mil­i­tants in Syria and Iraq.

The group, which has suf­fered heavy bat­tle­field set­backs in the past year, of­ten claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for at­tacks.

The at­tack oc­curred on the eve of a busy week­end in Mel­bourne, with a ma­jor horse race sched­uled for to­day and a na­tional league soc­cer match to­mor­row, which is also Re­mem­brance Day, when me­mo­rial cer­e­monies for World War I are held.

Ash­ton said po­lice were “do­ing se­cu­rity re­assess­ments of th­ese events in light of what’s oc­curred”, but there was “no on­go­ing threat we’re cur­rently aware of in re­la­tion to peo­ple sur­round­ing this in­di­vid­ual”.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son con­demned the “evil and cow­ardly at­tack”.

“Aus­tralians will never be in­tim­i­dated by th­ese ap­palling at­tacks and we will con­tinue to go about our lives and en­joy the free­doms that the ter­ror­ists de­test,” he said.

One wit­ness said one of the stab­bing vic­tims, be­lieved to be a man in his six­ties who later died, was stabbed


Hun­dreds of peo­ple gather to re­mem­ber the dozen peo­ple shot and killed by a Ma­rine vet­eran at the packed Border­line Bar & Grill. in the face, and that des­per­ate ef­forts were made to save him.

“Be­cause he was on his stom­ach, they turned him over to see if he was all right, he was still alive,” the wit­ness, Markel Vil­lasin, said.

“He was breath­ing and he was bleed­ing out.”

Video from the scene showed a man swing­ing a knife at two po­lice of­fi­cers near a burn­ing car be­fore he was shot.

In De­cem­ber 2014, a 17-hour siege in which a gun­man took 18 peo­ple hostage in a Syd­ney café ended with two hostages dead and the gun­man killed by po­lice. Though the er­ratic gun­man de­manded that po­lice de­liver him an Is­lamic State flag at the out­set of the cri­sis, there was no ev­i­dence he had es­tab­lished con­tact with the group.

How­ever, at a later in­quest, the coro­ner of New South Wales state said the gun­man’s ac­tions fell “within the ac­cepted def­i­ni­tion of ter­ror­ism”.

Mel­bourne was also the scene of two fa­tal car-ram­ming in­ci­dents last year, but nei­ther was linked by po­lice to ter­ror­ism. | A FAST-MOV­ING wild­fire that rav­aged a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia town yes­ter­day sent res­i­dents rac­ing to es­cape on roads that turned into tun­nels of fire as thick smoke dark­ened the day­time sky. Sev­eral thou­sand build­ings were de­stroyed by flames, a Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cial said.

“We were sur­rounded by fire, we were driv­ing through fire on each side of the road,” said po­lice of­fi­cer Mark Bass, who lives in the hard-hit town of Par­adise, where har­row­ing tales of es­cape and heroic res­cues emerged af­ter the en­tire com­mu­nity of 27000 was or­dered to evac­u­ate.

Wit­nesses re­ported see­ing homes, super­mar­kets, busi­nesses, restau­rants, schools and a re­tire­ment home up in flames.

Act­ing Cal­i­for­nia Govenor Gavin New­som de­clared a state of emer­gency in the area. |

African News Agency (ANA)

A BURNT-OUT ve­hi­cle on Bourke Street in Mel­bourne yes­ter­day. Po­lice of­fi­cials said the driver got out of the ve­hi­cle and at­tacked three by­standers with a knife, be­fore be­ingfa­tally shot by po­lice. | AP

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