Melbourne stabbing attack was terrorism incident, police say

Melbourne stabbing attack was \terrorism incident\, police say

Car crashes, bursts into flames on Bourke Street

The suspect was shot by police after he stabbed three people along busy Bourke Street. One person died at the scene while two other victims remain in hospital.

Police confirm one person has died following Bourke Street Mall attack.As (officers) got out of the car they were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them, Victoria Police Supt David Clayton said.

The terrifying ordeal unfolded in front of horrified shoppers and workers who used whatever they could find including chairs and shopping trolleys in a bid to stop the attacker.

Me and the managers ran out and thats 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 said.

Camera IconThe dramatic scene was captured by Twitter user @chrismacheras.Picture: @chrismacheras/TwitterIm pretty sure he got stabbed in the face. I really wanted to help but I was in shock, I didnt know what to do.

Because he was on his stomach, they turned him over to see if hes alright, he was still alive.

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

Mr Hair said two civilians became involved as well as two police, trying to stop the man from his attack.

Witness Fiona told 3AW her friends had seen someone with a knife in the area and shed been told hed stabbed a security guard.

Another witness on a passing tram told ABC Radio it seemed police had been trying to subdue a man who was waving something.

People around me screamed that he had a knife but I couldnt see clearly from where I was, Meegan May said.

Then I heard a loud bang and someone said they could see someone doing chest compressions on someone as an ambulance started coming up the street as well.

Police initially responded to reports of a car on fire at the corner of Bourke and Swanston streets. Supt Clayton confirmed that when officers arrived, they were quickly cornered by the armed man as the situation escalated.

A lone terrorist was responsible for a deadly stabbing attack that unfolded on Bourke Street in Melbourne's CBD on Friday afternoon.

One man was killed and two others injured after being stabbed by a man who set a ute alight outside the Target store near the busy intersection of Bourke and Swanston streets.

The attacker, who was a 31-year-old Somali community member known to ASIO, was shot by police after he repeatedly lunged at them with a knife.

A relative of the man was arrested on terror-related charges last year. However, sources said there had been no intelligence from counter-terror authorities about any serious threat.

"He is known to both Victoria Police and federal intelligence authorities," Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said on Friday night.

"But certainly we are treating it as a terrorism incident. He's got family associations that are well known to us."

It is believed the attacker, who lives in Melbourne's north-western suburbs, arrived in Australia in the 1990s.

Two male victims, aged 26 and 58, are in hospital. One is in a critical condition with a neck injury and another with a head injury.

Prominent Launceston businessman, Rod Patterson, is one of those two victims. He was taken to The Alfred hospital, but the nature of his injuries is not known.

"So 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," she wrote.

Mr Patterson, a former Autobarn franchisee and president of the South Launceston Football Club, owns an apartment in Melbourne.

"This is an evil and terrifying thing that has happened in our city," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The centre of Melbournes CBD remains in lockdown after horrific scenes unfolded about 4.30pm, sending Friday afternoon shoppers and commuters running for safety.

However, some bystanders risked their own lives to help police stop the attacker. One man tried to repeatedly ram the attacker with a shopping trolley, while another used a traffic cone to fend him off.

Superintendent David Clayton said police received reports that a vehicle was on fire in Bourke Street about 4.30pm.

"Nearby police quickly responded to the incident. As they got out of the car they were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them. At the same time passers-by were calling out that members of the public had been stabbed," Superintendent Clayton said.

"Police shot the male in the chest and he is now in a critical condition under [police] guard in hospital.

"Three people have been stabbed. Unfortunately one is deceased at the scene. Two other victims are currently in hospital. The bomb response unit have cordoned off the area."

The man stopped his dual-cab ute on Bourke Street, not far from the Target store near the intersection of Swanston Street, and set it alight.

In a desperate attempt to stop the attacker, one man tried to push a trolley into him. That man was pushed over onto the street, but got up again to try to fend the attack off. Another man tried to ward him off with a traffic cone.

Transit officers were the first to respond, with one officer using a tree to protect himself from the attacker as he lunged at them with the knife.

By 5.20pm, the body of one of the victims was lying under a white sheet on Bourke Street surrounded by police tape, near the entrance to Russell Place. There were large spots of what appeared to be blood near the body, as were a pair of men's black lace-up shoes.

Later in the evening, witnesses were being taken to Melbourne West police station in police vans, some looking quite shaken.

There were two dozen people in the foyer waiting to give witness statements to the police. Most sat in three rows of chairs, before being called to one of six tables set up by police.

One man briefly exited the building to greet a woman. He looked shaken as he hugged her – one sleeve of his white jumper was stained with dried blood.

One witness, Sarah Krug said she was heading to the night noddle markets when "all hell broke loose".

Stuart Gaut was inside the McDonalds on the corner of Bourke and Russell Streets when he felt the building shake and heard an explosion.

As he ran to the entrance, he saw about 40 people sprinting past in fear. "They were bolting, they all had panicked faces," he recalls.

An amateur photographer, Mr Gaut grabbed his gear and ran in the opposite direction, towards the scene, to take photos.

"I just saw the car, then the whole area was covered in smoke. There were a lot of policemen moving everyone away. It's funny how everyone just stands around and looks, no one was really running away."

Mr Gaut then went back into the McDonalds, which was in lockdown for more than an hour, to pat the shoulder of a trembling witness recounting his account to police.

Melbourne's anti-terror sirens and loudspeakers were used for the first time, sounding out across Bourke Street.

The message over the loudspeakers said: "This is Victoria Police, please evacuate the area. This is Victoria Police, please evacuate the area."

Witnesses told The Age they were shopping in the area when they saw a man throw what they believed to be a bomb into a car before it exploded.

They had initially thought the man was running to catch a tram close by, before a nearby police car rushed to the scene.

Twitter user Meegan May wrote: "Guy seems to have set his car on fire, then attacked police with a knife. Police response was swift and overwhelming. I heard at least one gunshot initially."

The attacks comes on the second day of the highly-publicised murder trial of James Gargasoulas, who allegedly drove through Bourke Street Mall on January 20 last year, killing six people and injuring 27 others.

It is normal for people to have strong emotional or physical reactions following a distressing or frightening event. People can seek help and advice by visiting your local doctor or calling Lifeline 13 11 14, GriefLine 1300 845 745, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

John Silvester is a Walkley-award winning crime writer and columnist. A co-author of the best-selling books that formed the basis of the hit Australian TV series Underbelly, Silvester is also a regular guest on 3AW with his “Sly of the Underworld” segment.

Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.

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