World

Melbourne police treating knife attack as terrorism incident, officials say

Police work at the crime scene following a stabbing incident in Melbourne on November 9, 2018.
William West/AFP/Getty Images
Police work at the crime scene following a stabbing incident in Melbourne on November 9, 2018.

SYDNEY — Police shot and killed a knife-wielding man Friday after he fatally stabbed one person and injured two others in the center of Australia’s second-largest city, police said.

Victoria state police Commissioner Graham Ashton says the suspect, who was originally from Somalia, was known to police, mostly because of family members who were “persons of interest” to police.

The incident is being treated as terrorism, police said.

Advertisement

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The militant group said in a statement released through its Aamaq media arm that the man was ‘‘one of Islamic State fighters’’ and carried out the attack in response to IS calls for attacks in countries that are part of the international coalition fighting the militants in Syria and Iraq.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

IS, which has suffered heavy battlefield setbacks in Syria and Iraq in the past year, often claims attacks in an opportunistic vein.

The incident, which brought central Melbourne to a standstill in the late afternoon rush, came after police responded to reports of a burning vehicle.

Australian police say the pickup truck contained several barbeque gas cylinders.

Police said the driver got out of the vehicle, which then caught fire, and attacked three bystanders with a knife before being fatally shot by police.

Advertisement

Officers were confronted near the burning car by a man ‘‘brandishing a knife and threatening them’’ while passers-by called out that people had been stabbed, Victoria state police Superintendent David Clayton said.

One of the stabbed people was dead at the scene and two others were taken to a hospital.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews says the attack was “an evil and terrifying thing that has happened in our city and state today.”

Clayton said investigators did not believe there were any other assailants. The man, who was shot in the chest by police, was in critical condition.

Victoria police tweeted a request for witnesses to speak to police and share any images that might help the investigation.