A razor-sharp assailant who killed one person and wounded two others before being shot dead by the police in the second-largest city in Australia had ties to the Islamic State, and the attack is treated as a terrorist attack.
The suspect, who died in hospital shortly after the Melbourne bomb attack on Friday, was identified by police as the 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali. The police said he and his family were previously known to the authorities. Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, who heads the state police in Melbourne, said the man had come to Australia decades ago and had not denied the claim of a reporter in a press conference that he was from Somalia.
The authorities said on Saturday that Shire Ali's passport was canceled in 2015 when he planned to travel to Syria, where militant Islamists until recently controlled large parts of the country in a so-called caliphate. Shire Ali took radical views, but it was decided that he was not a threat to national security, the authorities said.
The attack is a reality check, said Ian McCartney, Deputy National Security Officer for the Australian Federal Police. "Even with the fall of the caliphate in the conflict zone, the threat is still real."
McCartney said the attacker was inspired and radicalized by the Islamic State. The police also said they executed search warrants on Saturday morning in two suburbs of Melbourne.
The attack started shortly after 16:00, when the man parked a car in a busy shopping district in the city center. A fire broke out in the vehicle and Mr. Ashton said the attacker had "engaged" with the passers-by before the police arrived about a minute later.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. released footage showed a man who attacked officers with a knife and hit them while a vehicle was burning nearby. Mr. Ashton said the firefighters later discovered that there were gas canisters in the vehicle. Some witnesses said they heard two explosions coming out of the vehicle, a pickup truck according to the video from the scene.
In recent years, vehicles have been used in terrorist attacks, including in Barcelona, London, New York and Nice (France). Melbourne has recently set up barriers to protect sidewalks from potential attacks.
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The attack destroyed a normally festive time in Melbourne, which hosted the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, a horse race that is so popular that on the day it takes place every year, a public holiday takes place in the city. The city also prepared for Christmas celebrations.
Charmaine Pisevski, 20, was in a shop buying clothes with her mother when customers heard a blast. When they were evacuated onto the street, Mrs. Pisevski said that they were about 20 meters from the vehicle that was on fire. She saw a man swinging against the police, behaving unpredictably and screaming.
The man "did not seem to be in the right mood," she said. "I could not understand what he said. They had the fire going. Everyone was panicking. "
Mrs. Pisevski said she finally heard two shots. The police said the man, whose record included cannabis use, theft and driving crimes, was shot in the chest.
Melbourne has been hit by other acts of violence in the recent past. Last December, an Australian man of Afghan origin plowed a car into a crowd and injured more than a dozen; a victim died later. That took place only a few blocks from the events of Friday. The police said at the time that the December incident was unlikely to be related to terrorism.
In January 2017, another man drove a car through Melbourne's downtown, killing six people. The ABC reported that the person was in a drug-induced psychosis and the attack was not classified as terrorist. He is in court this week.
Write to Mike Cherney at email@example.com