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Australian police say Assyrian church stabbing was terrorist attack

At least four people were wounded in the attack, including Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church, during a service live streamed at the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley on Monday.
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 03:07 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 03:07 IST

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Sydney: A knife attack during a service at an Assyrian church in Sydney that injured a bishop was a terrorist act motivated by suspected religious extremism, Australian police said on Tuesday.

At least four people were wounded in the attack, including Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church, during a service live streamed at the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley on Monday.

The incident triggered clashes outside the church between police and an angry crowd of the bishop's followers who demanded the attacker be handed over to them.

Police arrested a male teenager at the scene on Monday and were forced to hold him at the church for his own safety as the crowd of worshippers gathered outside.

"We believe there are elements that are satisfied in terms of religious motivated extremism," New South Wales state Police Commissioner Karen Webb said during a press conference.

"After consideration of all the material, I declared that it was a terrorist incident."

Police said there was "a degree of premeditation" as the male attacker travelled to the church, far from his home, with a knife. But Webb said police at this early stage of the investigation believe the attacker was acting alone.

Emergency crews said they attended around 30 people after the clash outside the church, and seven were taken to hospitals with injuries. Several police were hospitalised with injuries and 20 police vehicles were damaged, Webb said.

It was the second major stabbing attack in just three days in Australia's most populous city after six people were killed and 12 injured in a knife attack at a beachside mall in the Bondi area on Saturday.

Bishop Emmanuel, whose live-streamed sermons attract a global audience, was speaking during an evening service when a man lunged at him with a knife, according to video footage.

Clips of the bishop's sermons rack up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and TikTok. He became well known for his hardline views during the pandemic when he described Covid lockdowns as "mass slavery", media reported at the time.

New South Wales state Premier Chris Minns urged people to not take the law into their hands.

"You will be met by the full force of the law if there's any attempt for tit-for-tat violence in Sydney over the coming days," Minns told reporters.

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Published 16 April 2024, 03:07 IST

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