Just days after Islamist terror group ISIS urged random attacks on Australians and other “disbelievers,” an apparent sympathizer stabbed two counter-terrorism officers in Melbourne before being shot dead.
The incident occurred when Abdul Numan Haider, an 18-year-old who had allegedly made threats against Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and reportedly waved an ISIS flag at a local mall, arrived at a police station in the southeastern suburb of Endeavour Hills on Tuesday night, ostensibly to assist police with an investigation.
On arrival at the station, Haider stabbed a state police officer who had tried to shake his hand, before turning on a federal police officer and stabbing him three or four times in the body and head. Haider was then fatally shot by the first officer. Both officers were rushed to hospital for surgery where they are reported to be in serious but stable condition.
Prime Minister Abbott, who is en route to New York to attend an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on ISIS, commended the officers during a stopover in Hawaii.
“Obviously this indicates that there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts,” he said. “It also indicates that the police will be constantly vigilant to protect us against people who will do Australians harm.”
On Sept. 21, ISIS released a 42-minute audio clip that called on its supporters to attack non-Muslims in Australia, among several other countries. The threat made against Australians followed the dispatch to the Middle East of 600 Australian military personnel and 10 aircraft, which will be used to launch airstrikes against ISIS.
“If you can kill an American or European infidel — especially the spiteful and cursed French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the infidel fighters, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon God, and kill them in any way possible,” exhorted ISIS spokesperson Abu Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami on the recording.
He added: “Why have the nations of disbelief entrenched together against you? What threat do you pose to the distant place of Australia for it to send its legions towards you?”
Professor Greg Barton of Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre in Melbourne tells TIME that Tuesday night’s attack was not necessarily a result of al-Shami’s call-to-arms.
“It is likely this kid had read the translation that appeared in the media on Sunday. But I don’t think the recording in itself is so significant,” he says.
Barton points out Haider was one of 40 to 60 individuals who recently had their passports cancelled over concerns they would join the small but prominent legion of Australians fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and suggested that this could equally have prompted the stabbing of the two police officers.
“We have to do more work on community engagement on those who had their passports taken,” he says. “These are troubled young men who are highly frustrated and the fact is they can cause a lot of trouble by running someone over with a car or attacking them with knife. Last night’s incident is a reminder of that, and the fact that, if left unattended, these people will become ticking time bombs.”
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