Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Melbourne police respond to siege

Reuters, MELBOURNE, Australia

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday said that police were treating a deadly siege in the southern city of Melbourne as an “act of terrorism” after a claim by the Islamic State group that one of its fighters was the gunman responsible.

Police shot dead gunman Yacqub Khayre, who they said had a long criminal history, on Monday after he killed a man in the foyer of an apartment block in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, and held a woman hostage inside.

Senior officials confirmed that Khayre had been acquitted of a plot to attack a Sydney army base in 2009 and was on parole for a violent home invasion at the time of Monday’s siege.

“This terrorist attack by a known criminal, a man who was only recently released on parole, is a shocking, cowardly crime,” Turnbull told reporters in the capital, Canberra. “It is a terrorist attack and it underlines the need for us to be constantly vigilant, never to be deterred, always defiant, in the face of Islamist terrorism.”

Australian police also said they were investigating the siege as act of terrorism after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency.

Police identified Khayre as a 29-year-old Australian of Somali heritage.

Amaq said the attack was launched because of Australia’s membership in a US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Police said they were investigating whether Khayre had any established links with the group.

Victoria State Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said earlier that Khayre had arranged to meet a female escort at a block of serviced apartments in the beachside Melbourne suburb of Brighton on Monday.

After shooting and killing a staff member when he arrived, Khayre then held the woman hostage for several hours before he burst out of the building and engaged police in a firefight, during which he was killed.

The woman was unhurt, but three police officers sustained gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening, Ashton said.

Turnbull asked why Khayre was not behind bars after a string of offenses.

Khayre first came to the attention of Australian counterterrorism police in 2009, when he was one of five men accused of plotting an attack on Sydney’s Holsworthy Army base to kill soldiers. Three of the men were convicted, while Khayre and the fifth man were acquitted.

The Victorian Supreme Court was told during that case that Khayre had been a worshiper at a Melbourne mosque and at a nearby prayer hall regarded by police as an “incubator” of militant ideology.

Court documents show Khayre migrated as a child with his family to Australia through a Kenyan refugee camp.

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