SYDNEY – An attacker whoand two more were injured in central Melbourne, the explosion was also planned, the Australian police said. Hassain Khalif Shire Ali, 30, had his passport canceled in 2015 after it became known that he wanted to travel to Syria, police said.
The attack occurred on Friday when Shire Ali got out of a pickup truck and set fire to three men, one of whom died at the scene. Hundreds of spectators were appalled during the afternoon rush hour in Australia's second-largest city.
Victoria's Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said Shire Ali, who was shot dead by the police and died in a hospital, also made an "uncomplicated" plan for the explosion of his vehicle to cause even more deaths. He had placed several grill canisters with open exhaust valves behind his pickup, but they had not ignited.
"It looks like he's been trying to light a fire in the car and we're currently thinking of firing these canisters with a kind of blast, but that did not lead to that," Ashton told reporters.
Shire Ali, who moved with his family from Somalia to Australia in the 1990s, was known to the police and the US intelligence agency ASIO. He had a criminal record of cannabis use, theft and driving offenses, Ashton said.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Ian McCartney said in a press conference Saturday that the attack was inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), although Shire Ali had no direct ties to the organization.
"It is fair to say that it was inspired, it was radicalized with the rise of the caliphate and the propaganda that was published on the internet, we do not say that there was direct contact, we say that it is more of one Inspiration was perspective, "said McCartney.
McCartney said the incident was a "reality check" for security agencies. "Even with the fall of the (ISIS) caliphate … the threat is still real."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "radical, violent, extremist Islam" is the greatest threat to Australia's national security.
"Here in Australia we would make a joke if we did not point out that the biggest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam," he said.
Morrison said he has longstanding relationships with the Muslim community and they have expressed concerns over radicalism in recent years.
Shire Ali had family and co-workers who were also known to the police. His brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali is currently in custody awaiting trial for allegedly planning an attack next year, Ashton said.
ISIS took responsibility for Friday's attack, but provided no evidence. The man was an IS fighter and responded to the group's calls for attacks in countries that are part of the international coalition fighting militants in Syria and Iraq.
Police and civilians had unsuccessfully attempted to subdue Shire Ali before being shot in the chest by a police officer, whom Ashton said he had just completed the Police Academy three months ago.
A 74-year-old man stabbed in the face died at the scene. Two other men, aged 26 and 58, are in a hospital that the police describes as non-life threatening injuries.
Ashton also said that the police ransacked two properties in Melbourne on Saturday, but the police did not believe there were any threats to the public. This is the second time in four years that Australia has experienced militant violence.
In December 2014, a 17-hour siege took place in which an armed manTwo hostages ended up in a café in Sydney, and the attacker was killed by the police. Although the unpredictable shooter demanded a flag of the Islamic State from the police at the beginning of the crisis, there was no indication that he had made contact with the militant group. In a later investigation, the New South Wales investigative judge said that the actions of the armed man "fell within the accepted definition of terrorism."
Melbourne was also the site of two deadly street violations last year, but both have not been associated with terrorism by the police.
Ashton said there is no indication that Shire Ali was inspired by James "Dimitrious" Gargasoulas, who was brought to trial this week in January 2017 on six counts of murder.