Islamic State claims its ‘fighter’ carried out stabbings in Melbourne

Shortly after 4pm local time today, Australian police rushed to the scene of a car fire in Melbourne. The scene turned bloody as a knifeman killed one person, wounding two others, in a stabbing rampage.

The Victoria Police quickly said the assault was “being treated as terror related.” As the “police officers got out of their vehicle,” according to the Victoria Police’s account, “they were confronted by a male who began a physical altercation with them.” The man tried to flee, but confronted the police with his blade after they gave chase. The assailant, a 31-year-old, was subsequently shot and killed.

“The man was known to Victoria Police and federal intelligence authorities by way of his family associations,” the police said in their statement.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton subsequently confirmed that the terrorist was known to authorities because of suspicions surrounding his family members. According to BBC News, Ashton identified the stabber as being of Somali origin, adding that he is “someone that is known,” because his “relatives” are “certainly persons of interest to us.” Ashton didn’t explain further.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq News Agency. See the statement, in Arabic, above.

Amaq claims the terrorist is one of the group’s “fighters,” saying that he carried out the stabbings and “running over” of victims in “response” to calls to target the “nationals of coalition countries.” Amaq has employed similar language after a series of other attacks in the West, repeatedly attributing acts of violence to the Islamic State’s encouragement.

Common Islamic State tactics

The so-called caliphate has not provided any details about the slasher, but his crude tactics — combining a vehicular assault with stabbings — is similar to that used in past small-scale operations. The examples below were previously written up by FDD’s Long War Journal.

In Nov. 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove a car into pedestrians at Ohio State University before jumping out and wielding a blade. US authorities subsequently revealed that Artan had been, at a minimum, inspired by a pro-Islamic State cleric.

In Mar. 2017, Khalid Masood drove his vehicle into pedestrians near the British parliament, then exited the driver’s seat to stab and slash others.

In June 2017, three terrorists rammed their vehicle into pedestrians on London Bridge and then used knives or other short blades to assault diners at the nearby Borough Market. One of the attackers, Khuram Shazad Butt, was previously associated with Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist organization in the UK that endorsed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate.

In July 2018, several youth used a vehicle and knives to assault foreign cyclists in Tajikistan. They killed four people, including two Americans. The Islamic State’s Amaq News subsequently released a video of the group swearing allegiance to Baghdadi before the murders.

A similar scene unfolded in Chechnya in Aug. 2018, when four young adults used at least one car and blades to go after police. The Islamic State again released footage of the young jihadists swearing their fealty to Baghdadi beforehand.

Previous Islamic State plots in Australia

The Islamic State has been tied to other plots and attacks in Australia. Yacqub Khayre, a Somali-born citizen of Australia, took a hostage at an apartment building in June 2017. Police rushed to the scene and some of the officers were wounded in the ensuing confrontation with Khayre, who was shot and killed. According to BBC News, Khayre “called a broadcaster during the siege to say he was acting in the name of the Islamic State.”

Amaq issued a claim of responsibility after Khayre’s short-lived siege. It echoed other statements by the Islamic State’s propaganda arm, describing Khayre as a “soldier” of the group. Amaq’s June 2017 claim can be seen below:

Two months later, in early Aug. 2017, Australian authorities announced that they had thwarted a “sophisticated” Islamic State plot against aviation. The would-be terrorists, who were communicating with one or more Islamic State members in Syria, attempted to smuggle an improvised explosive device (IED) on board a flight leaving Sydney. Islamic State operatives in Syria shipped components for the IED to their comrades in Australia. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Australia disrupts ‘sophisticated’ plot directed by the Islamic State.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • AustralSonder says:

    The attacker was wearing the big floppy shirt the IS inghimasiyun wear. He also had a “salafi-beard”. All visible in videos. Not sure why the authorities were so coy about declaring this a terror event – particularly when the MO is also the same as used elsewhere, as you point out.
    It then emerged that the attacker was a 31 year old Somali, who had come to Australia in the early 1990s. His name is Mohamed Khalif, also known as Hassan Shire. He is the brother of Ali Khalif Shire Ali, who was arrested in November of 2017 in relation to a foiled terror attack in Federation Square, also in the heart of Melbourne.
    The attacker Mohamed Khalif was known to be radicalised, along with his wife, who is missing and currently subject of a manhunt (or should that be womanhunt?). The entire family are considered by authorities, according to reports in the media, to be highly radicalised.
    Khalif’s passport was cancelled several years ago after he was noted as one of 300 potential security risks, according to news reports. Cancellation of passports has been linked to quite a number of cases, where the cancelee later runs off the reservation.
    Someone dropped the ball on this one.

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