3 stabbed in Melbourne terror attack

A body lying on the ground after a stabbing incident in Melbourne yesterday which police called an act of terrorism.
A body lying on the ground after a stabbing incident in Melbourne yesterday which police called an act of terrorism.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Man sets fire to truck full of gas cylinders and stabs three people before being shot by police

MELBOURNE • A knife-wielding man set fire to a pickup truck laden with gas cylinders in the Australian city of Melbourne yesterday and stabbed three people, killing one, before he was shot by police.

Police called the rampage an act of terrorism, while the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

The truck carrying barbecue gas cylinders burned on busy Bourke Street just before the evening rush hour as the driver stabbed bystanders and attacked police. The cylinders did not explode and the fire was put out in 10 minutes, by which point the attack was over.

"We are still trying to piece together whether the vehicle was lit, then he got out the car or whether he got out the car and then the vehicle took flame," said Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton.

Video posted on Twitter and broadcast on television showed the man swinging a knife at two police officers, while his utility truck burned in the background.

One of the officers shot the man and he collapsed to the ground clutching his chest, the video showed. Other footage showed two stab victims lying on the ground.

The attacker, said to be a Somali-born man aged 31, died in hospital, as did one of the victims. Mr Ashton said: "From what we know of that individual, we are treating this as a terrorism incident."

Asked about what the attacker had been planning, Mr Ashton referred to the gas cylinders in the truck and said: "You could make certain assumptions from that."

Victoria police declined to comment when contacted about the ISIS claim. The militant group also claimed responsibility for a deadly siege in the city in 2017 when a Somali man was killed by police after taking a woman hostage.

Mr Ashton said there was no longer a threat to the public, but that security would be boosted at horse races and Remembrance Day memorials over the weekend.

Police did not identify the attacker but Mr Ashton said the man was known to them and the intelligence authorities.

Mr Ashton declined to release the names of the victims, all male, because police were still in the process of contacting their families.

Police later said the two wounded men were aged 26 and 58.

Asked if the attacker had recently travelled to Syria, he said: "That is something we might be able to talk more about tomorrow."

A staunch US ally, Australia has been on alert for such violence after a Sydney cafe siege in 2014, and its intelligence agencies have stepped up scrutiny, though there was no warning of the latest attack.

The authorities say Australia's vigilance has helped it to foil at least a dozen plots, including a plan to attack downtown Melbourne at Christmas in 2016.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement released on Twitter: "Australia will never be intimidated by these appalling attacks."

Video on social media showed chaotic scenes as bystanders scattered while the attacker fought with police and his victims lay bleeding on the footpath.

One man charged at the attacker, who was wearing a long black shirt, with a shopping trolley just before police drew their weapons.

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said the attack was "an evil, terrifying thing".

A fatal but not terror-related attack took place on the same street last year, after a man drove his car at pedestrians, killing six people and wounding dozens. That prompted the city to install hundreds of security bollards.

In December 2014, two hostages were killed during a 17-hour siege by a "lone wolf" gunman in a cafe in Sydney.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline '3 stabbed in Melbourne terror attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe