SYDNEY (AP) — The driver of an SUV that rammed into a crowd in central Melbourne on Thursday, injuring 19 folks, is an Australian citizen of Afghan descent with a historical past of drug use and psychological sickness however no known hyperlinks to terrorism, police mentioned.
Police mentioned the 32-year-old driver, who was not recognized, was arrested and had been known to police for minor assault and site visitors offenses. The motive for the assault was not instantly known.
“We do not right now have any proof or any intelligence to point there is a reference to terrorism,” mentioned Victoria state police appearing commissioner Shane Patton.
The streets outdoors town’s iconic Flinders Street railway station have been crowded with Christmas customers Thursday afternoon when a white Suzuki SUV ran a crimson mild and sped as much as slam into pedestrians crossing the street earlier than crashing into a site visitors barrier.
While police had earlier mentioned 14 folks had been injured, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that 19 folks had been taken to hospitals. Four have been listed in essential situation and have been believed to incorporate a preschool-aged baby, Australian media reported.
Andrews described the incident as “an act of evil and an act of cowardice, perpetrated in opposition to harmless bystanders.”
Witnesses described a horrific scene.
“I used to be crossing Flinders Street on the best way to the practice station. I heard an engine rev behind me and heard a thump,” one man recognized solely as David mentioned on ABC TV. He mentioned he rotated noticed “folks actually getting thrown into the air because it hit them.”
Bystanders rushed to pull the driving force out of the automobile earlier than police arrived to arrest the person. Early reviews mentioned there have been two males within the car, however Patton confirmed the suspect was driving alone.
Confusion had arisen when a second man was seen being apprehended alongside the driving force. Patton mentioned he was a 24-year-old man seen filming the incident on his cell phone and located carrying a bag with three knives.
Patton mentioned that man was taken into custody to find out whether or not he was related.
“At this stage, we do not consider that to be the case,” he mentioned.
Patton mentioned the investigation would contain the drive’s counterterrorism unit to make sure “that there is not that connection, and that there’s no ongoing risk” however that the assault was being handled as a singular incident.
He mentioned police have been working with Australian intelligence company ASIO and Australian Federal Police and that there was no intelligence to counsel the person was an individual of curiosity to these businesses.
“We perceive he is on a psychological well being plan and receiving remedy for a psychological sickness,” Patton mentioned.
While police numbers could be elevated round Melbourne within the coming days, Patton mentioned, there was no elevated risk surrounding town over the busy vacation interval.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull despatched a tweet calling the incident “surprising” and mentioned his ideas and prayers have been with the victims and people treating them.
It is the second time this yr that Melbourne, frequently ranked one of many world’s most livable cities, has been traumatized by a car assault.
In January, six folks have been killed and greater than 30 have been injured when a car was pushed up a footpath in Bourke Street, close to Thursday’s incident. Police arrested the driving force, who was known to police for a historical past of illicit drug use, household violence and psychological well being issues. Police mentioned the case was not terrorism-related.
There have been quite a few car assaults in different components of the world lately, lots of them linked to terrorism.
In October, a person drove a truck down a New York City bicycle path, killing eight folks. The driver is accused of offering materials assist to the Islamic State group amongst different costs, together with homicide.
In an August assault, 13 folks have been killed and greater than 100 have been wounded when a automobile rammed into pedestrians on a strolling road in Barcelona. London has seen three such assaults this yr, two linked to Islamic extremists and one other seen as a reprisal assault outdoors a mosque, killing 13 folks altogether.
A automobile assault on a procuring road in Stockholm in April killed 5 folks, whereas an assault on a Christmas market in Berlin final December killed 12.
The deadliest such assault lately befell in Nice, France, in July 2016 when a person drove a refrigerated truck weighing about 20 tons into a crowd, killing 86 folks.