IS claims role in Mel­bourne at­tack


Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

>> MEL­BOURNE: A So­mali-born Aus­tralian who car­ried out a deadly knife ram­page in Mel­bourne held ex­trem­ist views and was known to in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, au­thor­i­ties said yes­ter­day, as they car­ried out raids and in­ter­viewed dozens of wit­nesses.

Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice said 30-yearold Has­san Khalif Shire Ali — who was shot dead af­ter driv­ing a 4x4 laden with gas cylin­ders into the city cen­tre and stab­bing three peo­ple — fled to Aus­tralia as a child with his fam­ily in the 1980s.

He stabbed three peo­ple be­fore be­ing con­fronted by mem­bers of the pub­lic and armed of­fi­cers who even­tu­ally shot him in the chest. One of his vic­tims died at the scene while two oth­ers were wounded.

Au­thor­i­ties have ques­tioned around 35 peo­ple who saw the rush hour at­tack, which although crude, was said to have been de­signed to “cause ter­ror and cause max­i­mum ca­su­al­ties” in the heart Aus­tralia’s bustling sec­ond city.

Armed of­fi­cers raided two ad­dresses in the west and north­east of the city, linked to the per­pe­tra­tor’s fam­ily and as­so­ci­ates, although there is not thought to be an on­go­ing threat.

The man killed by Shire Ali was named by l ocal me­dia as 74-year-old Sisto Malaspina, an icon of Mel­bourne’s thriv­ing culi­nary cul­ture who ran a fa­mous Ital­ian cafe.

Two other men wounded in the at­tack are still be­ing treated but are ex­pected to make a re­cov­ery.

Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties now face dif­fi­cult ques­tions about how Shire Ali, who was known to the Aus­tralian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion for at least three years, was able to carry out an at­tack.

He had his Aus­tralian pass­port re­voked in 2015 amid fears he was try­ing to travel to Syria to join the Is­lamic State (IS) group.

His brother will go on trial next year on sep­a­rate ter­ror-re­lated charges — ac­cused of try­ing to ac­quire a firearm and kill peo­ple in a New Years’ Eve crowd.

“The as­sess­ment was made that whilst he had rad­i­calised views he didn’t pose a threat to the na­tional se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment,” Ian Mccart­ney, a fed­eral po­lice coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial said of Shire Ali.

Mr Mccart­ney de­scribed the at­tack as a “wake up call” even as the IS loses ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria, where Aus­tralian forces are part of a coali­tion fight­ing the group.

“The cir­cum­stances of how he and when he moved from hav­ing th­ese rad­i­calised views to car­ry­ing out this at­tack yes­ter­day will be a key fo­cus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mr Mccart­ney added.

The IS — which of­ten claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for such at­tacks — said via its pro­pa­ganda arm that the per­pe­tra­tor was an “Is­lamic State fighter and car­ried out the op­er­a­tion”.

It pro­vided no ev­i­dence to back its claim. Wit­ness footage showed po­lice strug­gling for at least a minute to cor­ral the tow­er­ing man as he lunged, slashed and stabbed wildly at two of­fi­cers.

At least two mem­bers of the pub­lic stepped in to help po­lice. One man was armed with a cafe chair while an­other — 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.

The of­fi­cers “tried to ver­bally deesca­late” said Vic­to­ria Po­lice Chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton.

“Once the of­fi­cer is off the view that there is an im­mi­nent threat to life,” he added. “That is when firearms are drawn.”

Wit­ness Chris Newport, 60, de­scribed how he had been re­turn­ing from a job in­ter­view when he heard a loud noise and saw a truck on fire, rolling across the tram tracks be­fore a sec­ond, louder bang.

“In a split sec­ond ev­ery­thing changes” Mr Newport said, de­scrib­ing Shire Ali man­i­cally bran­dish­ing a knife. “You can’t imag­ine some­one de­cid­ing to do that.”

Po­lice said that his im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice was made up of gas cylin­ders and some form of lighter and “cer­tainly wasn’t so­phis­ti­cated”.

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said the coun­try would be un­flinch­ing in the fight against “rad­i­cal, vi­o­lent... ex­trem­ist Is­lam that op­poses our very way of life”.

Shire Ali “sought to in­still fear in our na­tion. Like those who tried be­fore him, this ter­ror­ist failed”, he said.

He cited more than a dozen foiled ter­ror plots as ev­i­dence that Aus­tralians could have faith in their coun­tert­er­ror­ism au­thor­i­ties.

Mel­bourne is Aus­tralia’s sec­ond largest city, a cos­mopoli­tan me­trop­o­lis of al­most five mil­lion peo­ple famed for its cafes, bars, restau­rants and high stan­dard of liv­ing.

Fri­day’s at­tack was a dou­ble blow for the city as it co­in­cides with an on­go­ing mur­der trial of 28-year-old James Gar­ga­soulas, ac­cused of plough­ing his car into crowds in the same area in 2017, killing six peo­ple. The mo­tives for that at­tack are still un­clear.

PAY­ING RE­SPECTS: Peo­ple lay wreaths yes­ter­day for Sisto Malaspina who was killed in the at­tack on Fri­day.

HAP­PIER TIMES: Cafe owner Sisto Malaspina, cen­tre, is seen with his staff in Pellegrini’s Es­presso Bar in 2010.

AT­TACK UN­DER­WAY: A video grab shows Has­san Khalif Shire Ali fight­ing with po­lice­men in Mel­bourne.

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