SYDNEY (AP) – Australian police said Saturday that a man who mortally stabbed another and injured two in what they described as an Islamic-inspired terrorist attack in central Melbourne had also planned to trigger an explosion.
The attacker, Hassain Khalif Shire Ali, 30, canceled his passport in 2015 after learning he intended to travel to Syria, police said.
The attack came on Friday when Shire Ali came out of a pickup truck, which he then set on fire, and stabbed three men, one of whom died on the scene. The attack has shocked hundreds of spectators during rush hour in the second largest city of Australia.
Victoria State Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said that Shire Ali, killed by police and died in a hospital, also made an "unsophisticated" plan to blow up his vehicle and cause many more deaths. He had laid several gas cylinders for barbecues in the back of his pick-up, with the exhaust valves open, but they could not ignite.
"It seems that he tried to light a fire in the car, we believe in this phase in order to ignite those containers with a kind of explosion, but this did not happen," Ashton told reporters.
Shire Ali, who moved to Australia with his family from Somalia in the 1990s, was known to the police and the ASIO federal intelligence authority. He had a criminal history for cannabis use, theft and driving crimes, Ashton said.
A burned-out vehicle was seen on Bourke Street in Melbourne on Friday, November 9, 2018. A knife-clad man stabbed two people, one fatally, in Australia's second largest city, in an attack probably linked to terrorism , the police said. The attack during the rush hour of the afternoon brought the center of Melbourne to a standstill. (James Ross / AAP Image via AP)
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Ian McCartney told a media briefing on Saturday that the attack is believed to have been inspired by IS, although it was thought that Shire Ali had no direct connection with the organization.
"It's fair to say that he was inspired, he was radicalized, with the rise of the caliphate and the widespread propaganda on the Internet We are not saying that there was direct contact, we are saying that it was more from an inspiring perspective," said McCartney.
McCartney said the incident was a "reality check" for security agencies that "even with the fall of the caliphate (IS) … the threat continues to be real".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "extremist, violent and extremist Islam" is the biggest threat to Australian national security.
"Here in Australia, we would take it around if we did not recall the fact that the greatest threat of religious extremism in this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam," he said.
Morrison said he had longstanding relationships with the Muslim community and that they raised concerns over radicalism in recent years.
Shire Ali had family members and associates who were also known to the police. His brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali is currently awaiting trial next year for allegedly planning an attack, Ashton said.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Friday but did not provide evidence. He said that the man was a fighter of the Islamic State and that he had responded to requests for IS attacks in the countries that are part of the international coalition that fights the militants in Syria and Iraq.
Police and civilians had tried unsuccessfully to subdue Shire Ali before they were shot in the chest by a police officer, who Ashton said he graduated from the police academy three months ago.
A 74-year-old man who had been stabbed in the face died on the scene. Two other men, aged 26 and 58, are in a hospital with what the police describe as non-fatal injuries.
Ashton also said the police searched two properties in Melbourne in connection with the attack on Saturday, but the police did not believe there had been constant threats to the public.
It is the second time in four years that Australia has witnessed militant violence.
In December 2014, a 17-hour siege in which a hitman took 18 people hostage in a Sydney cafe ended with two dead hostages and the assailant killed by the police. Although the unpredictable bandit demanded that the police deliver him a flag of the Islamic state at the beginning of the crisis, there was no evidence that he had established contacts with the militant group. However, in a subsequent investigation, the New South Wales coroner declared that the bandit's actions were "inside the accepted definition of terrorism".
Melbourne was also the scene of two fatal car accidents last year, but neither was linked to terrorism by the police.
Ashton says there is no suggestion Shire Ali was inspired by James "Dimitrious" Gargasoulas, who faced the court this week on six charges of murder for the first ramming attack in January 2017.
This image from a video shows a white sheet covering a roadside object in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, November 9, 2018. The police shot a man who wielded the knife on Friday after stabbing a person to death and injuring two others in the center of the second largest city, police said. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
This image from a video shows the police cordon in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, November 9, 2018. The police shot a man armed with a knife Friday after stabbing a person to death and injuring two others in the center of the second largest city. ## Australia, the police said. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
This video made by a video shows the police at the corner of the street after a shooting in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, November 9, 2018. Police shot a man armed with a knife Friday after stabbing a person to death and injured two others in the center of the second Australian – the largest city, police said. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)
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