Australia: A Somali-born man set fire to a pickup truck laden with gas cylinders in the center of the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday and stabbed three people, killing one, before he was shot by police in a rampage they called an act of terrorism.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
The utility truck carrying barbecue gas cylinders burned on busy Bourke Street just before the evening rush hour as the driver stabbed bystanders and attacked police. Videos surfaced on social media showing the man swinging a knife at two police officers, while his truck burned in the background.
The cylinders did not explode and the fire was put out in 10 minutes, by which point the attack was over.
Another photo shows the vehicle on fire. Credit: www.twitter.com/meegslouise
“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,” Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton told reporters.
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 nearby. Police later said the two wounded men were aged 26 and 58.
The attacker, who police said was 31, died in hospital, as did one of the victims, Ashton said. “From what we know of that individual, we are treating this as a terrorism incident,” he said of the attacker.
Police did not identify the attacker but Ashton said the man was known to them and intelligence authorities because of family associations. All of the victims were men, Ashton said. He declined to release their names because police were still in the process of contacting families.
A video posted by The Guardian showed the vehicle burning from a different angle.
One man charged at the tall attacker, who was wearing a long black shirt, with a shopping trolley just before police drew their weapons. A witness, Markel Villasin, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio: “Bystanders were yelling out ‘just shoot him, just shoot him’.” They did.
ITCT Deputy Director Faran Jeffery, while talking about the attack, said, “We must not forget that this attack comes after a lengthy campaign by pro-IS groups in which several posters were released threatening Australia with biological, chemical, stabbing and car ramming attacks. So it was just a matter of time. The good news is it was a stabbing attack, producing low casualties. There is still some criticism directed towards Australian police as some people think they took too long to shoot the Somali terrorist. But I disagree with that view, I think police did their job perfectly fine and they saved many lives. But I will say that there appears to be some intelligence failure in this case since the terrorist was known to local law enforcement. We have to remember, pro-IS propaganda does not happen in a vacuum. We may say it’s not official IS but the fact is that the propaganda posted by pro-IS groups is viewed by most active IS supporters and it does play a part in radicalisation of individuals. By monitoring pro-IS propaganda, security agencies can gain greater insight into what could be the most likely targets.”
Pro-IS groups released multiple posters, shared with ITCT Newsdesk by ITCT Associate Jasmine Opperman.
Jasmine Opperman, while talking to ITCT Newsdesk said, “The following attacks have not all been claimed by IS, but there have been six similar attacks on Australian home soil, with indications of links to the Islamic State. The September 2014 knife attack outside the Victoria Police Endeavour Hills police station, a suburb of Melbourne, in Victoria. The December 2014 Lindt Café Siege at Martin Place in Sydney. The October 2015 murder of NSW Police employee Curtis Cheng outside the New South Wales Police Force headquarters in Parramatta. The September 2016 knife attack on dog walker in Minto, a suburb of Sydney. The May 2017 Murder & Siege in Brighton, a suburb of Melbourne. The February 2018 knife attack in Mill Park, a suburb of Melbourne carried out by a female attacker. Australia has also featured prominently in Islamic State propaganda posters inciting attacks, ranging from knife and vehicle attacks to chemical attacks such as poisoning of food.”
This story will be updated in case of new information.