MELBOURNE • A fatal shoot-out claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is being treated as a terrorist attack by Australian police, as the prime minister condemned it as "shocking and cowardly".
A man of Somali background was killed in a gun battle with police when he opened fire following an hour-long stand-off after taking a female escort hostage at a serviced apartment block in Melbourne on Monday evening.
It is alleged that 29-year-old Yacqub Khayre had first murdered a Chinese-born Australian man working as a receptionist in the foyer. The escort escaped unharmed but three police officers were injured in the firefight. Police said he made statements "around Al-Qaeda" and called a local television station making similar comments, reportedly saying: "This is for ISIS, this is for Al-Qaeda."
The authorities labelled the attack as a terrorism incident but added that investigations are ongoing into whether it was planned or random. "We're not seeing anything indicating that he's got some message from overseas to do this," said Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton. Police believed he was acting alone.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the attack underlined the need to be constantly vigilant.
"This terrorist attack by a known criminal, a man who was only recently released on parole, is a shocking, cowardly crime," he said, calling for the parole decision to be reviewed. Khayre, whose parents were refugees from Somalia, had a long criminal history involving robbery, violence and drugs. He was charged and acquitted over a foiled plot to attack the Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney in 2009.
Separately, a terrorism scare caused passengers to jump from a plane at a rural Australian airport yesterday when a threatening note, which turned out to be a hoax, was found in the toilet.
The 42 passengers on a Virgin Australia flight which had landed in Albury were ordered out of the window exit onto the tarmac.
A 30-year-old man has been charged with threatening the lives of passengers with false information.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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