Melbourne stabbing attack was 'terrorism incident', say Islamic State claims it

Melbourne stabbing attack was 'terrorism incident', say Islamic State claims it

MELBOURNE coffee icon Sisto Malaspina has been identified as the murdered victim of Bourke Street's terror attack yesterday.

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

Mr Malaspina 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 long-standing menu.

"Pellegrini's what 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 mechanization, no additives. Everything was simple, fresh and beautifully put together, "Malaspina told Hospitality Magazine last year.

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. "

POLICE STORM KNIFEMAN'S FAMILY HOME

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 cooperating with police.

BOURKE ST KILLER IDENTIFIED

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

The 30-year-old Somali-born attacker, from Melbourne's northwestern suburbs, died at hospital last night after being shot in the chest by police.

Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said Shire Ali was known to be a counter-terrorism authority, both "at the national level" and the state police.

"We're just confident it's a terrorist attack and that's the way we've been doing it overnight," he told The Today Show this morning. "He's pulled up in a car with gas cylinders. It looks like he's attempting to ignite a fire in the car.

"Then he's got out of the car, we're all serious about the public."

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

Shire Ali is the brother of accused terrorist Ali Khalif Shire Ali, 21, who allegedly plotted a large-scale attack at Federation Square on New Year's Eve, according to The Herald Sun,

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

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

"We know where his wife is and he 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 happened in the death of the offender.

"You can see from the footage, it is almost dramatic footage that has been recorded on social media. They were very good at the scene. "

READ MORE: Trolley hero praised for running at knifeman

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

Asked about the broader issue of radicalization 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 carried out the ramming and stabbing operation in Melbourne (..) is one of the fighters of the Islamic State and he is carrying out the operation in response to (a call) to the citizens of the coalition," Amaq said night.

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

The Melbourne road has been shut down from Swanston St to Russell St as forensics and bomb checked in the area after 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 Rod Patterson, a businessman from Tasmania. In a Tweet, Tasmanian Prime Minister Will Hodgman praised him for his bravery, saying "a nicer bloke you would not meet".

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

"Unfortunately we got caught in the attack on Bourke Street this afternoon and Rodney was hurting – good news can, "she wrote.

"Thanks to everyone for their wishes and caring."

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

This is the second week in Melbourne.

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. So we take this opportunity to thank those very happy and responsible members of Victoria Police. They've done each and every one of us.

"Equally, those strangers, people who were bystanders who knew no one involved, who stepped into a moment's hesitation, to render support and assistances."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been briefed on 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 never want to 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 started 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.

It's unclear whether the car is set on fire before or after the left of 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 to fire.

The man then punched one of the officers through the window of the car. Two other officers got out of the car and attempted to engage him. One officer finally shot him once in the chest.

There were some reports that said "Allahu Akbar" during the attack but later.

Footage on social media shows a man in a black and white pants with a knife. Two Bystanders Try To Help Officers Stop The Man, One Of Them By Rolling A Shopping Trolley In His Path.

RELATED: Trolley man praised for confronting knifeman

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

"Passers-by were called out of the public," he said.

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

He was just going to shoot him, just shoot him. "A lot of bystanders were out and about.

Ambulance Victoria said he had been taken to hospital.

One had a neck injury and one suspected critical condition; the third person person was unknown.

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

Melbourne resident Meegan May told news.com.au she was on a tram on Bourke St Andrew, 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 is 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 as the drama unfolded.

He and his colleagues have been waiting for him, he has said: "What are you talking about?" "He told AAP.

"I'm pretty sure he got stabbed in the face.

"I really wanted to help but I was in shock, I did not 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 he was dressed in Islamic clothing and about six feet tall.

"The cops were trying to hit him with batons and he was not going down," he said. Mr Hair said he was involved as well as two police, trying to stop the man from his attack.

An ambulance and about 10 police cars within moments.

A man told Sky News that it seems to be multiple explosions.

"There's one explosion and fire, then a second explosion and a massive fireball," he said.

Reports on 3AW radio indicate that witnesses saw the vehicle "throw something into the back", which then ignited.

An eyewitness speaking to 7 It has 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 something 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 last year so I started running. Everyone started running. It was so scary. "

Anyone with information or who witnessed the incident.

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 plowed 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 trial on murder and attempted murder charges.

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

Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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