Two dead in Mel­bourne ter­ror at­tack

● So­mali im­mi­grant blows up ve­hi­cle, em­barks on stab­bing frenzy dur­ing rush hour

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World -

A So­mali im­mi­grant killed one per­son and wounded two oth­ers in a rush hour stab­bing spree in the heart of Mel­bourne on Fri­day, with po­lice la­belling it a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

The un­named man had driven a 4x4 truck loaded with gas bot­tles into the bustling Mel­bourne city cen­tre, ig­nited the ve­hi­cle in a ball of flames and then at­tacked passers-by with a knife, po­lice said.

He stabbed three peo­ple be- fore be­ing con­fronted by armed of­fi­cers who even­tu­ally shot him in the chest. One vic­tim died at the scene and the at­tacker died in hos­pi­tal.

Counter-ter­ror­ism po­lice and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers are still piec­ing to­gether how the in­ci­dent oc­curred, but said the at­tacker was known to in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.

Is­lamic State – which of­ten claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for such at­tacks – said via its pro­pa­gan- da arm that the per­pe­tra­tor was an "Is­lamic State fighter and car­ried out the op­er­a­tion".

Wit­ness footage showed po­lice strug­gling for at least a minute to cor­ral the tow­er­ing man – who was wear­ing a dark tu­nic – as he lunged, slashed and stabbed wildly at two of­fi­cers.

At least two mem­bers of the pub­lic bravely stepped in to help po­lice. One man was armed with a cafe chair and an- other – swiftly dubbed an "Aussie hero" on so­cial me­dia – re­peat­edly tried to ram the sus­pect with an empty metal shop­ping cart.

But the at­tacks con­tin­ued un­abated be­fore one of­fi­cer opted for lethal force, shoot­ing the sus­pect in the chest.

"We are now treat­ing this as a ter­ror­ism event," said Vic­to­ria po­lice chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton, who said the sus­pect was some­one who was known to po­lice through fam­ily con­nec­tions.

The un­named as­sailant was said to have lived in Mel­bourne's north­west­ern sub­urbs, but had come to Aus­tralia from So­ma­lia in or around the 1990s, when the coun­try was rav­aged by a civil war.

Wit­ness Chris Newport, 60, de­scribed how he had first heard a loud noise and seen a truck on fire rolling across the tram tracks be­fore a sec­ond, louder bang. "He was hold­ing a knife and run­ning around the place," he said of the at­tacker.

"Some­one had a shop­ping trol­ley and was try­ing to stop him. Two po­lice turned up re­ally quickly, but there was only a cou­ple of them.

“He started to go at them and there was a loud bang – they shot him," he said.

The po­lice chief re­fused to give more de­tails due to the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the au- thor­i­ties will face in­evitable ques­tions about how some­one known to the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices had none­the­less man­aged to carry out an at­tack.

The counter-ter­ror­ism com­mand has taken a lead role in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and po­lice have set up a three-block-wide ex­clu­sion zone.

Of­fi­cers said they "are not look­ing for any­one fur­ther at this early stage" and there was no im­me­di­ate ev­i­dence of an on­go­ing threat re­lated to the at­tack.

Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors combed through the scene where the dead vic­tim's body lay cov­ered in a white plas­tic sheet.

Fri­day's at­tack is a dou­ble blow for the city as it co­in­cides with the on­go­ing mur­der trial of James Gar­ga­soulas, 28, ac­cused of plough­ing his car into crowds in the same area in 2017, killing six peo­ple.

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