SYDNEY – Australian police announced Saturday that a man who had stabbed the death of another man and injured two others as a result of a terrorist attack in central Melbourne had also planned to trigger an explosion.
Hassain Khalif Shire Ali, 30, came out of a van, which then caught fire and stabbed three men, one of whom died on the scene Friday. The attack horrified hundreds of spectators during the afternoon rush hour in Australia's second-largest city.
Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said that Shire Ali, who had been shot dead by police and died at the hospital, had also planned that his vehicle would explode, but the gas bottles from the barbecue at the back of his pickup truck did not catch fire.
"Looks like he's been trying to light a fire in the car, we're thinking at this point in order to light those cans with some kind of explosion, but that's not it's not produced, "Ashton told the Australian Channel 9 television network.
Ashton said that Shire Ali, who had left Somalia to travel to Australia in the 1990s, was known to the police and the ASIO federal intelligence authority, in part because his brother Ali Khalif Shire Ali had this year in Melbourne, accused of planning another attack.
"It's someone we know," Ashton said. "But there was not one we were actively watching at this level."
Ashton said Shire Ali had a criminal history of cannabis use, theft and driving.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published through its media outlet, Aamaq, but provided no evidence. This man was an Islamic State fighter and had responded to calls from the Islamic State for attacks in member countries of the international coalition fighting militants in Syria and Iraq.
EI, which has suffered many setbacks on its battlefield over the last year, often claims attacks with no obvious link.
Police and civilians tried unsuccessfully to control Shire Ali during Friday's attack before the police shot him in the chest.
A 74-year-old man, stabbed in the face, died on the scene. Two other men, aged 26 and 58, are in the hospital with what the police describe as life-threatening injuries.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said the police were searching two properties in Melbourne Saturday as part of the attack. Ashton, however, said the police did not think the public was currently threatened.
This is the second time in four years that Australia has witnessed militant violence.
In December 2014, a 17-hour siege in which an armed man took 18 people hostage at a Sydney cafe was completed on two dead hostages and the assailant killed by police. Although the erratic shooter asked the police to hand him a flag of the Islamic State at the beginning of the crisis, there was no evidence that he had made contact with the militant group. However, in a subsequent investigation, the New South Wales coroner ruled that the acts of the armed bandit "fell within the accepted definition of terrorism".
Melbourne was also the scene of two deadly incidents that took place last year, but the police did not link them to terrorism.
Ashton says that there is no suggestion that Shire Ali was inspired by James "Dimitrious" Gargasoulas, who appeared in court this week on six counts of murder during the first bombing, in January 2017.
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