ISIS Says it’s Behind Hostage Siege and Killing in Australia
The Australian authorities are treating an abduction and a killing here in Melbourne on Monday, which ended with the gunman dead, as a terrorist attack.
The police killed the gunman after he held a woman hostage at an apartment complex in Brighton, one of Melbourne’s wealthiest suburbs. The woman was rescued, and another man was found dead in the lobby, the police said. The authorities did not immediately identify the victims.
The police identified the gunman as Yacqub Khayre, an Australian citizen with a long criminal record who came to the country from Somalia as a child refugee. Graham Ashton, the chief police commissioner for Victoria State, said Mr. Khayre was known to the police “for a whole range of offending,” including drug and violent crimes and arson.
Mr. Khayre served a significant amount of prison time and was on parole at the time of the attack, the commissioner said. The gunman was acquitted in an investigation of a terrorism plot in New South Wales several years ago, but since then, he was involved in routine criminal activity, Mr. Ashton said. “There wasn’t anything suggesting he was about to do this.”
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack early Tuesday morning, Melbourne time, calling the assailant a “soldier” of the terrorist group. The statement said he had acted in response to the group’s public calls to supporters to carry out violent attacks against countries in the coalition that is trying to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Australia is part of the coalition.
“There are some very, very grave questions,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday. “How was this man on parole? He had a very, very long record of violence.”
The episode started with reports of a possible explosion about 4 p.m. Roughly two hours later, the police declared that they had the situation under control.
The attack sent jitters through much of the country, coming so soon after the attacks in London and Manchester, England.
“People just came running down the street, saying, ‘There’s just been shots fired down the road,’” said George Baker, an employee at a bistro a few hundred yards from the apartment complex. “Everyone was in a panic.”
The evidence pointing to terrorism first emerged with a call to a television station during the siege, in which a man said, “This is for I.S.,” presumably a reference to the Islamic State, and, “This is for Al Qaeda.” The station, 7 News Melbourne, said that it and the police believed that the call had come from inside the building where the siege took place. A woman could be heard screaming in the background, 7 News said.