SYDNEY – The Australian police said Saturday that a man who stabbed another to death and wounded two in what they described as a terrorist attack in central Melbourne had also planned to unleash an explosion.
Hassain Khalif Shire Ali, 30, came out of a pickup truck, which then caught fire and stabbed three men, one of whom died on the spot on Friday. The attack has shocked hundreds of spectators during rush hour in the second largest city of Australia.
The Victoria State Police Commissioner, Graham Ashton, said that Shire Ali, killed by police and died in a hospital, had also planned the explosion of his vehicle, but the gas cylinders from the barbecue at the back of the pick-ups did not turn on.
"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 Australian channel Channel 9.
Ashton said that Shire Ali, who moved to Australia from Somalia in the 1990s, was known to the police and the ASIO federal intelligence authority in part because his brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali was facing at court this year in Melbourne, accused of planning another attack.
"It's someone who was known to us," Ashton said. "But it was not someone we were actively monitoring at that level."
Ashton said that Shire Ali had a criminal history for cannabis use, theft and driving crime.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued through its Aamaq middle arm, 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.
The IS, which has suffered heavy jokes on the battlefield in the last year, often claims attacks without a clear connection.
Police and civilians had tried unsuccessfully to subdue Shire Ali during the Friday attack, before the police hit him in the chest.
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.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said that the police are looking for two properties in Melbourne in connection with the attack. Ashton said, however, that 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.
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