Melbourne knife attack inspired by IS, say police
Militant group takes credit but attacker ‘had no direct contact’
MELBOURNE: A Somali-born man who set fire to a truck laden with gas cylinders in the centre of Melbourne and fatally stabbed one person was inspired by Islamic State but did not have direct links with the group, Australian police said.
Police identified the man responsible for Friday’s attack as 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali and said he was radicalised and inspired by the militant group’s propaganda.
He was shot by police and died in hospital.
Police said Shire Ali’s Australian passport was cancelled in 2015 after an intelligence report said he planned to travel to Syria, but an assessment said that while he had radical views, he posed no threat to national security.
Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack, which came two days before Remembrance Day, marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, without providing any evidence.
“I think it is fair to say he was inspired. He was radicalised,” Australian Federal Police acting deputy commissioner Ian McCartney told reporters in Melbourne.
“We’re not saying there was direct contact. We’re saying it was more from an inspiration perspective.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the national terrorism advisory remained at “probable”, the midpoint of a five-tier system, and told reporters in Sydney that radical Islam was the issue.
“I need to call it out. Radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life.
“I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but that also means I must be the first to call out religious extremism,” he said.
Friday’s attack began just before the evening rush hour and lasted only minutes.
Shire Ali stabbed bystanders and attacked police while his utility truck carrying barbecue gas cylinders burned on busy Bourke Street.
The cylinders did not explode and the fire was put out in 10 minutes, by which point the attack was over, though not before one man was fatally stabbed.
Police said he was a 74-yearold man who worked in the city, but did not release his name.
The man’s business partner identified him as Sisto Malaspina, co-owner of Pellegrini’s cafe, a Melbourne institution credited with forging the city’s famous coffee culture.
“Many, many tears have been shed,” the cafe’s co-owner.
Nino Pangrazio, told The Age newspaper, and customers laid flowers and written tributes outside the cafe yesterday.
“This shouldn’t happen in a city like Melbourne,” one witness who had returned to the scene said, crying.