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Melbourne terror attack: Isis claims responsibility for stabbing rampage after gas canisters found in attacker's vehicle

The Independent logo The Independent 09/11/2018 Tim Wyatt

Video: Fatal stabbing in Melbourne 'linked to terrorism' (PA)

Police found gas canisters in a vehicle belonging to a man who stabbed three people in Melbourne before being shot dead by officers, in an attack police are now treating as terrorism.

The attacker – and some of his relatives - was known to the police and the Australian intelligence services, but his identity has not yet been released.

Isis has now claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement through their Amaq news agency that the man was one of their "fighters". A burnt out vehicle at the crime scene following a terror attack in Melbourne © Getty, Reuters A burnt out vehicle at the crime scene following a terror attack in Melbourne

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The chief commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton, told reporters that an investigation by counter-terrorism officers had been launched.

Police were first called to reports a car was on fire but when they arrived they were attacked by the man, who was armed with a knife.

Videos taken by bystanders show a lengthy confrontation between the police and the attacker, as bewildered shoppers pass by. Police work at the crime scene following a stabbing incident in Melbourne © Getty Police work at the crime scene following a stabbing incident in Melbourne

The man lunges repeatedly at the two officers with his knife, while they attempt to incapacitate him with pepper spray and a taser.

One member of the public tries to help the police by hurling a metal shopping trolley at the knifeman as he charges across the street.

Eventually one of the officers draws his pistol and shoots the attacker in the chest, who then drops to the ground. Policemen stop members of the public from walking towards the Bourke Street mall in central Melbourne © Reuters Policemen stop members of the public from walking towards the Bourke Street mall in central Melbourne

Mr Ashton said that the knifeman and three other men who were stabbed by him were taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, but he and one of the victims have now died from their injuries.

The other two victims are still being treated in hospital but their wounds are not thought to be life-threatening. They are 26 and 58 years-old, while the attacker was 31, police said.

None of the victims have been formally named because police are still attempting to contact their families.  Police are seen in Bourke St in Melbourne © Getty Police are seen in Bourke St in Melbourne

But Australian media have reported that one of those injured was a businessman called Rod Patterson. Mr Patterson's wife, Maree, posted on social media that he was hurt but is "doing OK given the circumstances".

When the fire brigade arrived to put out the blaze they discovered that there were several "barbecue-style" gas canisters inside. A bomb disposal team was then called, who have made the scene safe.

Witnesses reported seeing the man throw an object into his car after he crashed it, setting it on fire. 

Police have not yet confirmed his intentions, but Mr Ashton said it was fair to infer that he hoped to turn the vehicle into a bomb. 

The police officers attacked during the incident only suffered minor injuries and their "cuts and scratches" are being treated at police station in Melbourne.

Mr Ashton, however, denied claims that the man had shouted Allahu Akbar during the attack and said he had not tried to decapitate anyone. One of the stab victims had suffered "significant head injuries".

The attacker was born in Somalia but moved to Australia during the 1990s and most recently lived in the north-west suburbs of Melbourne, the chief commissioner also said. He was a "person of interest" to both the Victoria state police and Australian federal intelligence services. 

He also had a minor criminal record and had been convicted of cannabis use and theft in the past.

Scott Morrison, the prime minister, has condemned the "evil and cowardly attack" and paid tribute to the courage of the police who responded.

"Australians will never be intimidated by these appalling attacks and we will continue to go about our lives and enjoy the freedoms that the terrorists detest," he said in a statement.

The premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, praised the bravery of both the police and members of the public who tried to stop the attacker.

"This is an evil and terrifying thing that has happened in our city today," he said at the same press conference.  Tactical police are seen in Bourke St © Getty, Reuters Tactical police are seen in Bourke St

"Victorians can be assured that every member of Victoria Police are equal to the task, as they have demonstrated today. In the midst of tragedy you can find such pride in the work of bystanders to come to the aid of others.

"We will not, as a city and state, be defined by this act of evil. We will simply refuse to do that. We are bigger and stronger than this.

Mr Andrews also extended the "thoughts and prayers" of the city and state to everyone injured and "our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased person".

The leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, who represents a constituency in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, echoed Mr Andrews's words.

"When evil attacks our city, Melbourne stands together," he tweeted. "Once again Victorians are in awe of our extraordinary police officers, who responded to swiftly, bravely and professionally this afternoon, and the passers-by whose first instinct was to go to the aid of others."

Melburnians must refuse to be cowed by the terror attack and instead carry on as normal over the weekend, the chief commissioner concluded.

Extra police officers will be on duty at major public events including football matches and Remembrance Day commemorations but there was "no ongoing threat we are currently aware of".

Anyone who saw the attack unfold or took photos and videos should share them with Victoria Police, he also said.

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