Australian police say stabbing attack linked to terrorism

Three people were stabbed, one fatally on Friday in Melbourne

A knife-wielding man stabbed three people, one fatally, in Australia’s second-largest city on Friday in an attack police linked to terrorism.

The attack during the afternoon rush hour brought central Melbourne to a standstill. Hundreds of people watched from behind barricades as police tried to apprehend the attacker.

Police said the man got out of a pickup truck, which then caught fire, and attacked three bystanders with a knife. He also attempted to attack police who arrived on the scene before being shot in the chest by an officer.

The suspect died later at a hospital. One of the victims also died, while the two others were hospitalized.

Police said the attacker’s vehicle contained several barbecue gas cylinders in the back. A bomb squad rendered them safe without any exploding.

Victoria state police Commissioner Graham Ashton said the suspect, who was originally from Somalia, was known to police and the incident was being treated as terrorism.

“From what we know of that individual we are treating this as a terrorism incident,” Ashton told reporters, adding that the police counterterrorism command was working on the case, as well as homicide detectives.

RELATED: 13 dead including gunman in shooting at California bar

“He’s known to police mainly in respect to relatives that he has which certainly are persons of interest to us, and he’s someone that accordingly is known to both Victorian police and the Federal intelligence authorities,” he said. He did not elaborate.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released through its Aamaq media arm, but provided no evidence. It said the man was an Islamic State fighter and had responded to IS calls for attacks in countries that are part of the international coalition fighting the militants in Syria and Iraq.

IS, which has suffered heavy battlefield setbacks in the past year, often claims attacks without any clear connection.

Friday’s attack occurred on the eve of a busy weekend in Melbourne, with a major horse race scheduled for Saturday and a national league soccer match the following day. Sunday is also Remembrance Day, when memorial ceremonies for World War I are held.

Ashton said police were “doing security reassessments of these events in light of what’s occurred,” but there was “no ongoing threat we’re currently aware of in relation to people surrounding this individual.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the “evil and cowardly attack.”

“Australians will never be intimidated by these appalling attacks and we will continue to go about our lives and enjoy the freedoms that the terrorists detest,” he said in a statement.

One witness said one of the stabbing victims, believed to be a man in his 60s who later died, was stabbed in the face, and that desperate efforts were made to save him.

“Because he was on his stomach, they turned him over to see if he’s all right, he was still alive,” the witness, Markel Villasin, told Australian Associated Press.

“He was breathing and he was bleeding out.”

RELATED: Trial of Toronto woman in fatal stabbing hears of her mental illness

Video from the scene showed a man swinging a knife at two police officers near a burning car before he was shot.

In December 2014, a 17-hour siege in which a gunman took 18 people hostage in a Sydney cafe ended with two hostages dead and the gunman killed by police. Though the erratic gunman demanded that police deliver him an Islamic State flag at the outset of the crisis, there was no evidence he had established contact with the militant group.

However, at a later inquest, the coroner of New South Wales state said the gunman’s actions fell “within the accepted definition of terrorism.”

Melbourne was also the scene of two fatal car-ramming incidents last year, but neither was linked by police to terrorism.

Trevor Marshallsea, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gathering in Salmon Arm to offer support, resources after shooting

Agencies join to provide practical assistance from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23 at rec centre

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Clear skies and pushing 20 C

Environement Canada forcasts a sunny and warm Easter weekend

Have your say on proposed ban of single use plastic bags

Salmon Arm to hold public information session on bylaw this Tuesday, April 23

Peeling away: OK strip clubs disappearing

Hear from Penticton’s only strip club owner about their success in a dying industry

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Vernon photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Fire near Vernon airport “not a concern”

Vernon firefighters attended the scene and found a resident performing a controlled burn

Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates stops by Okanagan café

Coates was spotted in West Bank’s Kekuli Café on April 20

B.C. women make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read