SYDNEY - Australian investigators say a Somali-born man who stabbed bystanders in the center of Melbourne on Friday had been “inspired” and “radicalized” by the militant group calling itself Islamic State. Hassan Khalif Shire Ali was shot by police and died later in a hospital.
The attack began when Shire Ali, 31, crashed his car, which was packed with gas bottles, in the heart of Australia’s second biggest city. He then stabbed three people. One, a 74-year-old restaurant owner, died at the scene while two others are being treated in a hospital. Neither is in serious condition.
Cellphone video shows the knife-wielding attacker lunging at two policemen in a busy Melbourne street. He was eventually shot by one of the officers and died later in a hospital.
Known for radical views
Authorities say Shire Ali’s Australian passport had previously been canceled because of fears he planned to travel to Syria in 2015. Despite being known to hold radical views, he was not being actively monitored by Australian security agencies and had been assessed as not posing a threat to the community.
It is thought the attacker moved to Australia from Somalia in the 1990s, and that members of his family had been known to police on terrorism-related matters.
“In relation to that person, he is known to police mainly in respect to relatives that he has that are certainly persons of interest to us,” said Graham Ashton, Victoria state’s chief police commissioner. “For operational reasons we now have the counterterrorism command and the homicide squad dealing with this matter and there are ongoing investigations being conducted by the counterterrorism command.”
‘Act of evil’
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrew says the community will not buckle to extremism.
“We will not as a city and a state be defined by this act of evil,” he said. “We simply refuse to do that. We will go about our business this weekend and every weekend because we are bigger and stronger than this.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said extreme Islam is one of the greatest threats to his country.
Officials say Australia’s terror threat level would remain at “probable.”