Sydney church stabbing called ‘terrorist’ act, teen detained

Two people were stabbed when a 16-year-old suspect rushed the dais at an Assyrian Christian church in western Sydney late Monday

SYDNEY  -   Australian police on Tuesday said a brutal knife attack during a live-streamed church service was a religiously motivated “terrorist” act, as they urged calm from the angered local community. Two people were stabbed when a 16-year-old suspect rushed the dais at an Assyrian Christian church in western Sydney late Monday, slashing wildly at the bishop who was giving a sermon.

The bishop was stabbed in the head and chest and taken to hospital. The attacker was immediately subdued by outraged congregants and later taken into police custody. He was “known to police” but was not on any terror watchlists, senior officers said.

“After consideration of all the material, I declared that it was a terrorist incident,” New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb told a news conference. Webb said the attack was deemed an act of religiously motivated “extremism” that intimidated the public -- adding that the victims were “lucky to be alive”. The head of Australia’s leading spy agency said that the suspect appeared to have acted alone and there was no immediate need to raise the country’s terror threat level.

“At this stage, it looks like the actions of an individual,” Australian Security Intelligence Organisation head Mike Burgess said in rare public comments.

Three other people were treated for non-stab wounds sustained as a result of the attack and about 30 more were treated after a riot that ensued outside the church.

For three hours, more than 500 protestors clashed with a phalanx of riot police who battled to prevent them from reentering the church and lynching the teen. He is now being held at an undisclosed location and is believed to have also sustained knife injuries. Authorities had originally given the his age as 15. 

An AFP journalist at the scene late Monday saw projectiles being hurled before police with riot shields and body armour eventually pushed the protesters away from the church. 

Twenty police vehicles and some houses were damaged as the protesters threw bottles, bricks and other items.

One officer was “hit with a metal object and sustained a twisted knee and a chipped tooth”, police said.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt