MELBOURNE, Australia – Police were treating a stabbing attack in central Melbourne on Friday, in which one person died and two others were injured, as a terror incident.
The alleged attacker was shot in the chest by police at the scene on Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Central Business District and died half an hour after arriving at hospital, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told a press conference.
The unnamed 31-year-old suspect was a “person of interest” who was known to both police and federal intelligence authorities, and had a history of minor drug, theft and driving offenses, Ashton said.
“(His) family members are known to us from a terrorism perspective,” he said, adding the suspect had moved to the country from Somalia in the 1990s and lived in the northwestern suburbs of Melbourne.
Three men were stabbed and one died at the scene. A 26-year-old and a 58-year-old were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison released a statement in which he condemned the “evil and cowardly” attack and praised the bravery of police and public.
“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.
State Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters the incident was “an evil and terrifying thing that has happened… and we condemn it.”
Ashton said the incident began when a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle drove into Bourke Street and parked. There was one male in the vehicle, “a fire has then started in the vehicle, then he got out … and has engaged with members of the public.”
As police arrived “almost within a minute,” the suspect “assaulted one of the police offices through the vehicle window by punching him” before producing a knife and attempting to attack officers with it. A police officer then shot the offender in the chest.
Ashton said “BBQ-style gas cylinders” were found inside the vehicle that had been set alight. He did not confirm reports the offender had shouted “allahu akbar.”
The investigation was continuing, with no ongoing threat, authorities said.