Melbourne stabbing attack was ‘terrorism incident’, police say, as Islamic State claims it

THE “trolley man” who was hailed a hero on social media for taking on a terrorist has revealed what happened during the deadly terror attack in Melbourne yesterday.

The man attempted to help police officers stop the terrorist — who had already killed one person and injured another two — by rolling a shopping trolley in his path. He was one of two bystanders who stepped in as killer Hassan Khalif Shire Ali tried to claim more victims.

“Trolley man” today spoke to 7 News, who didn’t identify him, and told the network he believes he helped save lives by defending the city.

“I’ve seen the trolley to the side so I’ve picked it up and I ran, threw the trolley straight at him, got him, but didn’t get him down,” he said.
“I did that motion quite a number of times but it just wasn’t getting him down.”

The attacker, from Melbourne’s northwestern suburbs, was soon shot in the chest by police, before he died in hospital last night.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Somali-born Bourke Street terrorist had violated the nation’s trust — saying “the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam”.

Mr Morrison said Somali-born killer Hassan Khalif Shire Ali was one of about 400 people on a national ASIO terror watch list.

“Here in Australia we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is a special responsibility on religious leaders to protect their religious communities and to ensure dangerous teachings and ideologies do not take root here.”

The Bourke Street knifeman was not actively monitored prior to his stabbing frenzy, despite the fact intelligence agencies cancelled his passport three years ago.

In a press conference today, Victoria Police confirmed Ali had been known to intelligence agencies for years, but he was not being actively monitored prior to the attack.

They said his passport was cancelled in 2015 after ASIO determined he was planning to travel to Syria.

Despite this, Shire Ali was not kept under close watch. “He was never a target of the JCTT in terms of the investigations we undertook,” said Commissioner Ian McCartney. “The assessment was made that while he had radicalised views he didn’t pose a threat to the national security environment.

“Obviously, the circumstances of how and when he moved from having these radicalised views to carrying them out will be a key focus of the investigation we undertake.”

He said the tragedy yesterday was a “reality check”.

“Even with the fall of the caliphate in the conflict zone, the threat continues to be real,” the commissioner said. “But this is a complex and challenging business.”

Officers did note that, when a person’s passport is cancelled due to being a potential terror risk, there are “ongoing daily, weekly and monthly reviews” in relation to the individual.

But the commissioner repeatedly stressed that when ASIO cancelled Shire Ali’s passport in 2015, the attacker “was not a threat at that time”.

Officials said the current threat had been mitigated and they do not believe any related individuals — including the attacker’s wife, who police have spoken to — pose a terror threat.

On Saturday afternoon, the Herald Sun revealed incredible new footage of the moment police were forced to shoot Ali.

Car horns are blaring and people can be heard yelling “shoot him” as the officers back away from the knife-wielding man.

WATCH THE FOOTAGE BELOW. WARNING: DISTRESSING

MELBOURNE COFFEE ICON KILLED IN ATTACK

Melbourne coffee icon Sisto Malaspina has been identified as the murdered victim in Bourke Street’s terror attack yesterday.

Staff at Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, a well-known cafe Mr Malaspina had owned for over 40 years, have been in mourning since the incident, The Herald Sun reports.

The 74-year-old took over the coffee bar in 1974 and maintained the tradition of the original owners. The popular establishment is well-known for its traditional Italian cooking and longstanding menu.

Police are expected to confirm his identity later this afternoon.

“Pellegrini’s was the number one in the way it did things, the way things should be done — fresh ingredients, taken from the growers to the market to the shop. Everything done by hand. No mechanisation, no additives. Everything was simple, fresh and beautifully put together,” Malaspina told Hospitality Magazine last year.

“And it hasn’t changed at all. It’s still the same menu, prepared in the same way. Slow cooking, no machinery, done by hand … This is the way food should be done. It’s not contemporary food. It’s secular, traditional, home cooking.”

PRIME MINISTER’S WARNING

In Saturday afternoon’s press conference, Mr Morrison made it clear no religion was immune and it took many forms around the world.

“But here in Australia, we would be kidding ourselves if we did not call out the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam,” he said. Mr Morrison said he had longstanding relationships with the Muslim community and it was them who had raised with him their concerns about radicalism in recent years.

“I have sat in the living room of a family whose four sons went and fought for ISIS,” he said.

“And they all died. I have seen the look of complete loss in the eyes of a mother and a father … confused by people who came and corrupted their children.” Mr Morrison urged religious leaders to protect their communities to ensure “dangerous teachings and ideologies” didn’t spread in Australia. “They must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out in their communities,” he said, adding the government and wider community needed to work respectfully with them.

Mr Morrison also urged Australians not to be intimidated by Friday’s attack. “Keep being yourselves, keep being Australians,” he said.

“Be proud of who you are, because I know you are and that is what will ensure we will always defeat this insidious evil that comes at us every single time.”

POLICE STORM KNIFEMAN’S FAMILY HOME

Police have surrounded a house linked to Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, the man behind yesterday’s Melbourne terror attack.

Officers have been standing guard at the Werribee home since around 8am this morning, The Herald Sun reports.

It’s understood the attacker’s family are inside the house and are co-operating with police.

BOURKE ST KILLER IDENTIFIED

Victoria Police have identified the Bourke Street knifeman as Hassan Khalif Shire Ali.

Imam Isse Musse, a friend of Ali’s family, told The Age he had been worried about the 30-year-old’s mental health for some time.

He said Ali claimed he was being chased by “unseen people with spears” in the weeks leading up to the deadly knife rampage.

Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said Shire Ali was known to counter-terrorism authorities, both “at the national level” and to the state police.

“We’re certainly confident it was a terrorist attack and that’s the way we’ve been treating it overnight,” he told The Today Show this morning. “He’s pulled up in a car with gas cylinders. It looks like he’s attempted to ignite a fire in the car … we believe with a view to ignite these canisters with some kind of explosion, but that didn’t eventuate.

“Then he’s gotten out of the car, we allege with an attempt to cause serious harm to the public.”

He said Shire Ali has a prior criminal history in relation to driving offences, theft and previous cannabis use.

Mr Ashton said the knifeman was not being actively monitored prior to the attack.

He also confirmed police had spoken with the knifeman’s wife, in contrast to previous reports that she had gone missing.

“We know where his wife is and we have spoken with his wife, and she is not missing,” he confirmed.

Mr Ashton commended the Victorian police officers’ response to the incident, saying: “Obviously it was at their own personal risk when they arrived and intervened and did their duty. It has resulted in the death of the offender.

“You can see from the footage, it is fairly dramatic footage that was recorded and has been played on social media. They were very brave at the scene.” He also commended members of the public for attempting to support the police in the incident.

READ MORE: Trolley hero praised for running at knifeman

Police said there has been nothing so far to suggest this attack was inspired by the James Gargasoulas attack on Bourke Street Mall last January.

Asked about the broader issue of radicalisation in Melbourne, Mr Ashton said people need to be vigilant.

“It’s like all other big cities in the western world,” he said. “You have to be alert for this sort of thing, and we have a lot of police working in counter-terrorism these days, and obviously at the national level with our federal agencies.

“These are the types of attacks that are unfortunately all too common in big cities around the world and we’ve been no exception to that.

“These days attacks can occur very quickly and can have very fatal consequences.”

The Islamic State terror group has taken responsibility for the murderous attack, although the group’s Amaq news website provided no evidence for the claim.

“The one who executed the ramming and stabbing operation in Melbourne (..) is one of the fighters of the Islamic State and he executed the operation in response to (a call) to target the citizens of the coalition,” Amaq said late last night.

Bourke Street reopened around 6.15am this morning as investigators finished assessing the scene of the deadly terror attack.

The Melbourne road had been shut off from Swanston St to Russell St as forensics and bomb experts examined the area, after a man went on a deadly stabbing frenzy yesterday afternoon.

Three people were stabbed in the attack, with one victim dying at the scene.

CHAOS IN MELBOURNE’S CBD

The knifeman caused chaos in the Melbourne CBD on Friday afternoon after allegedly stabbing three men.

A 26-year-old and a 58-year-old were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The older victim has been named as Rod Patterson, a businessman from Tasmania. In a tweet, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman praised him for his bravery, saying “a nicer bloke you wouldn’t meet”.

His wife Maree posted on Facebook that Rod was “doing OK given the circumstances”.

“Unfortunately we got caught up in the attack in Bourke Street this afternoon and Rodney was hurt — good news is he is in a great hospital and doing OK given the circumstances — can’t take calls at the moment but will speak to everyone when I can,” she wrote.

“Thanks to everyone for their wishes and caring.”

Police officers also received minor injuries, one of them from being punched, and some cuts and scratches.

In light of the attack police are doing security assessments of events happening in Melbourne this weekend and extra police may be present but the Commissioner said there was no ongoing threat they were aware of.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the incident and thanked the police and brave bystanders who had risked their lives to stop the knifeman.

“This is an evil, terrifying thing that’s happened in our city and state today,” Mr Andrews said.

“We condemn it. We also take this opportunity to thank those very brave and dedicated members of Victoria Police who did all of us proud in their very quick response in very dangerous circumstances. They’ve done each and every one of us proud.

“Equally, those strangers, people who were bystanders who knew nobody involved, who stepped in without a moment’s hesitation, to render support and assistances.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been briefed about the incident and state and federal agencies were working together.

“I condemn the act of terrorism in Melbourne today that has tragically taken the life of a fellow Australian who has died as a result of this evil and cowardly attack,” he said in a statement.

“Australians will never be intimated by these appalling attacks and we will continue to go about our lives and enjoy the freedoms that the terrorists detest.”

HOW KNIFEMAN’S ATTACK UNFOLDED

The terror incident began when the man drove a 4WD into the city about 4.10pm on Friday afternoon and it was set on fire.

Commissioner Ashton confirmed there were some barbecue-style gas cylinders in the car that had to be rendered safe by the bomb response unit.

It’s unclear whether the car was set on fire before or after the man left the vehicle.

According to the ABC, witnesses saw the man crash the car, get out and throw an object into the car that set it alight.

Commissioner Ashton said after the car was set on fire, the man interacted with some members of the public before police arrived.

The man then punched one of the officers through the window of the car. Two other officers got out of the police vehicle and attempted to engage him but the man used a knife to try and attack them. One officer eventually shot him once in the chest.

There were some reports that the man yelled “Allahu Akbar” during the attack but authorities later said this had not been confirmed.

Footage on social media shows a blue ute in flames and a man dressed in a black tunic and white pants menacing police with a knife. The “trolley man” was one of two bystanders who tried to help officers stop the man. A second man was also filmed on the scene holding a chair in the air as he moved in on the attacker.

RELATED: Trolley man praised for confronting knifeman

In an earlier press conference, Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters that police were called to the scene after reports of a car on fire. When officers got out of the car, they were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them.

“Passers-by were calling out that members of the public had been stabbed,” he said.

One witness named Markel told ABC Local Radio in Melbourne that bystanders were urging officers to shoot the man.

“A lot of bystanders (were) actually just screaming at the police officers, because the police officers were trying to take the knife off him and arrest him but bystanders were yelling out ‘just shoot him, just shoot him’.”

Ambulance Victoria said it had assessed three people at the scene, who were then taken to hospital.

One had a neck injury and was in a suspected critical condition, a second person had a head injury; and the condition and injuries of the third person was unknown.

Police have urged anyone who witnessed the incident or had footage of what happened to contact them.

Melbourne resident Meegan May told news.com.au she was on a tram on Bourke St heading into the city when it stopped just before Elizabeth St, about a block before the mall. She heard someone start screaming “he’s got a knife”.

She looked through the back window of the tram and noticed a car on fire. There was a man and two police officers trying to calm him down.

“A moment later, I heard a loud bang; to me it sounded like a gunshot,” she said.

Markel Villasin, 22, was finishing his shift at KFC on Bourke St as the drama unfolded.

“Me and the managers ran out and that’s when we saw the car on fire and then we saw the guy on the floor and we wanted to help, there were two blokes helping him out already, he was face down pools of blood around his face,” he told AAP.

“I’m pretty sure he got stabbed in the face.

“I really wanted to help but I was in shock, I didn’t know what to do.

“Because he was on his stomach, they turned him over to see if he’s alright, he was still alive.”

Bystander Drew Hair told AAP he was walking on Swanston Street when he heard an explosion.

The next thing he saw was a “big dude punching into the police car”.

Mr Hair said the assailant was dressed in Islamic clothing and of African appearance and about six foot four inches tall.

“The cops were trying to hit him with batons and he wasn’t going down,” he said. Mr Hair said two civilians became involved as well as two police, trying to stop the man from his attack.

An ambulance and about 10 police cars appeared within moments.

A man told Sky News that there seemed to be multiple explosions.

“There was one explosion and fire, then a second explosion and it was like a massive fireball,” he said.

Reports on 3AW Radio indicate that witnesses saw the man driving the vehicle “throw something into the back”, which then ignited.

An eyewitness speaking to 7 News said it appeared the car was on fire before it crashed and “exploded”.

“I was walking up Bourke St … and we heard this loud explosion. I thought it was a car backfiring but there was flames coming out of the car. It then veered to the left … and exploded in flames,” the woman said.

“People were running everywhere. I thought it was like what happened last year so I started running. Everyone started running. It was so scary.”

Anyone with information or who witnessed the incident is asked to go to Melbourne West police station to make a statement.

This marks the third attack in the area in less than two years. In January last year, six people were killed and 27 injured after a car was ploughed through Bourke Street Mall, with 28-year-old James Gargasoulas standing trial over the attack.

Last December, a car mowed down 16 pedestrians outside Flinders Street Station. Saeed Noori, 33, was ordered to stand on trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

gavin.fernando@news.com.au | @gavindfernando

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Source: https://www.news.com.au/news/national/melbourne-stabbing-attack-was-terrorism-incident-police-say-as-islamic-state-claims-it/news-story/95ad6cca7af9e87528d814a6b96f693e

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