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Sydney Church Stabbing Was A ‘Terrorist Incident,’ Authorities Say

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Updated Apr 16, 2024, 06:16am EDT

Topline

Australian authorities on Tuesday said a knife attack on a bishop and congregants at a church in western Sydney was a terrorist incident likely motivated by religious extremism, just two days after six were killed in another mass stabbing in the city.

Key Facts

The decision to declare Monday’s attack a terrorist incident was because the stabbing appeared premeditated, and also down to religious remarks made by the attacker during the incident.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told the media: “After consideration of all the material I declared that it was a terrorist incident...A referral has been made and agreed to by the Joint Counter Terrorism Investigation team that will work jointly with New South Wales Police.”

“We believe there are elements that are satisfied in terms of religiously motivated extremism,” Webb said.

The suspected attacker—identified as a male teenager—was arrested at the scene by police, who had to briefly hold him at the church as an angry mob of the bishop’s followers gathered outside the church and clashed with the police.

The state’s Premier Chris Minns met with several religious leaders and called for calm as the police undertake a “major terrorism investigation.”

Christ the Good Shepherd Church, the Assyrian church where the stabbing happened, issued a statement urging its followers against “retaliation of any kind.”

Crucial Quote

In a press conference Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “There is no place for violence in our community. There is no place for violent extremism. We are a peace-loving nation. This is a time to unite, not divide as a community and as a country.” Commenting on a clash between police and the crowd outside the church, Albanese added: “It is not acceptable to impede and injure police doing their duty or to damage police vehicles in a way that we saw last night. People should not take the law into their own hands.”

Surprising Fact

The U.S. Embassy in Australia issued an alert to its citizens in the country, urging them to “remain vigilant; be aware of your surroundings; and practice sound personal security and situational awareness.” Despite this, the State Department’s travel advisory for Australia remains unchanged at Level 1.

Key Background

On Monday, a knife-wielding attacker stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel while he was delivering a sermon at the Assyrian church located in Sydney’s Wakeley suburb. The attack was caught on camera as the church live streams all its sermons online. Seven people, including the bishop, were taken to the hospital but all are expected to survive the attack. Police arrested a 16-year-old at the scene but had to call in reinforcements after hundreds of the bishop’s followers gathered outside the church demanding the alleged attacker be handed over to them. This led to clashes between the police and the crowd, causing injuries to some police officers at the scene. Monday’s attack took place just two days after another mass stabbing incident at a Sydney mall where six people were killed. Police ruled that attack had no terrorist links. The perpetrator was identified as Joel Cauchi, a 40-year-old man with mental health issues who police believe deliberately targeted women.

Further Reading

Priest Stabbed During Livestream In Second Sydney Knife Attack (Forbes)

Sydney Attacker Likely Deliberately Targeted Women, Police Say (Forbes)

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