The man who stabbed three passers-by on Friday in Melbourne, one of them fatally, was inspired by the Islamic State (IS) but had no direct connection to the jihadist organization, the Australian police said on Saturday.
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The man who stabbed three bystanders in Melbourne on Friday, one of them deadly, was inspired by the Islamic State (IS) but had no direct connection to the jihadist organization, the Australian police said on Saturday.
The investigators identified the perpetrator, a 30-year-old Somali man named Hassan Khalif Shire Ali. He died in the hospital after being shot with at least one bullet in the chest by the police.
The authorities withdrew his Australian passport in 2015 following a note from the intelligence services that he intended to travel to Syria. Classified as a radicalized Islamist, he was not considered a threat to national security.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Friday in a statement issued by its propaganda agency, Amaq, but without providing any proof of its involvement.
“I think it’s fair to say that (Shire Ali) was under the influence, he was radicalized,” Ian McCartney, deputy commissioner of the federal police, told the press.
“We are not saying he had direct contact,” he added.
The attacker set fire to a pickup loaded with gas cylinders on Bourke Street in the city center, shortly before the late hour rush hour but the bottles did not explode.
The driver of the vehicle had meanwhile attacked three men with a knife, one of whom, a septuagenarian of Italian origin who was holding a cafe in the neighborhood, died.
IS had already blamed an incident in Melbourne last year, during which a man from Somalia was also killed by police after taking a woman hostage.
Australia has been on alert for attacks since the attack on a Sydney café in 2014, fearing the return of jihadists fighting in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the alert level for attacks was maintained at “likely”, the third degree on a scale of five.
“I must denounce radical, violent, extremist Islam that is opposed to our way of life, I am the first to protect religious freedom in this country, but it also means that I must be the first to denounce religious extremism, “said the head of the government.
Victoria State Police said two raids on the attack were underway in the suburbs of Melbourne.