Monday, March 1

Knife attacker named as known extremist


People pay their respects for Malaspina outside Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar in Melbourne. — AFP photos

This handout video grab via the Instagram account of Chris Newport shows a man fighting with policemen in downtown Melbourne after he stabbed a number of people.

MELBOURNE: A Somali-born Australian who carried out a deadly knife rampage in Melbourne held extremist views and was known to intelligence services, authorities said yesterday, as they carried out raids and interviewed dozens of witnesses.

Australian Federal Police said 30-year-old Hassan Khalif Shire Ali – who was shot dead after driving a 4×4 laden with gas cylinders into the city centre and stabbing three people – fled to Australia as a child with his family in the 1980s.

He stabbed three people before being confronted by members of the public and armed officers who eventually shot him in the chest. One of his victims died at the scene while two others were wounded.

Authorities have questioned around 35 people who saw the rush hour attack, which although crude, was said to have been designed to ‘cause terror and cause maximum casualties’ in the heart Australia’s bustling second city.

Armed officers raided two addresses in the west and northeast of the city, linked to the perpetrator’s family and associates, although there is not thought to be an ongoing threat.

The man killed by Shire Ali was named by local media as 74-year-old Sisto Malaspina, an icon of Melbourne’s thriving culinary culture who ran a famous Italian cafe.

An Australian police officer stands outside a property that was searched by Australian counter-terrorism investigators, located in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee, Australia. — Reuters photo

Two other men wounded in the attack are still being treated but are expected to make a recovery.

Australian authorities now face difficult questions about how Shire Ali, who was known to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for at least three years, was able to carry out an attack.

He had his Australian passport revoked in 2015 amid fears he was trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

His brother will go on trial next year on separate terror-related charges – accused of trying to acquire a firearm and kill people in a New Years’ Eve crowd.

“The assessment was made that whilst he had radicalised views he didn’t pose a threat to the national security environment,” Ian Mccartney, a federal police counterterrorism official said of Shire Ali.

Mccartney described the attack as a ‘wake up call’ even as the Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria, where Australian forces are part of a coalition fighting the group.

“The circumstances of how he and when he moved from having these radicalised views to carrying out this attack yesterday will be a key focus of the investigation,” Mccartney added. — AFP