Sydney church stabbing was a religiously motivated terrorist act, police say

A knife attack during a service at an Assyrian church in Sydney 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 between angry crowds and police outside the church.

An attacker approaches Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a church service at Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, Sydney, Australia on Monday in an image taken from a social media live-stream video. Photo: Reuters

Police arrested a male teenager at the scene on Monday and were forced to hold him at the church for his own safety after a crowd gathered outside and demanded the attacker be brought out.

“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.

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

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The suspect was “known to the police” but was not on any terrorist watch list, Webb said.

Police responding to the incident soon found themselves under attack by angry people outside the church, she said.

“People used what was available to them in the area, including bricks, concrete, palings, to assault police and throw missiles at police and police equipment and police vehicles.”

Injured officers were taken to hospital overnight, Webb said, without giving figures.

The crowd damaged 20 police vehicles, she said.

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“That is unacceptable and those that were involved in that riot can expect a knock at the door. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow, but we will find you and we will come and arrest you,” Webb said.

It was the second major stabbing attack in just three days in Australia’s most populous city after six people were killed in a knife attack at a beachside shopping centre in the Bondi area on Saturday.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse



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