0551 GMT March 22, 2019
The unnamed man drove a 4X4 truck loaded with gas bottles into the bustling city center of Melbourne, ignited the vehicle in a ball of flames and then attacked passers-by with a knife, police said.
He stabbed three people before being confronted by armed officers who eventually shot him in the chest. One victim died at the scene and the attacker died later in hospital, AFP reported.
Counter-terrorism police and intelligence officers are still piecing together how the incident occurred, but said the attacker was known to intelligence services.
Daesh terrorist group – which often claims responsibility for such attacks – said via its propaganda arm that the perpetrator was an “Islamic State fighter and carried out the operation.”
Witness footage showed police struggling for at least a minute to corral the towering man – who was wearing a dark tunic – as he lunged, slashed and stabbed wildly at two officers.
“We are now treating this as a terrorism event,” said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton, who said the suspect was “someone that is known” to police through family connections.
The unnamed assailant was said to reside in Melbourne’s northwestern suburbs, but had come to Australia from Somalia in or around the 1990s, when the country was ravaged by a civil war.
The counter-terrorism command has taken a lead role in the investigation and police have set up a three-block-wide exclusion zone.
Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city, a cosmopolitan metropolis of almost five million people famed for its cafés, bars, restaurants and high standard of living.
Friday’s attack is a double blow for the city as it coincides with an ongoing murder trial of 28-year-old James Gargasoulas, accused of ploughing his car into crowds in the same area in 2017, killing six people.