Australia labels Sydney church stabbing a terrorist act

Australian authorities announced on Tuesday that the knife attack on an Assyrian church bishop and several congregants in Sydney is considered a terrorist act fueled by suspected religious extremism. This declaration comes as the nation copes with another stabbing incident in just three days.

Publication: 16.04.2024 - 11:25
Australia labels Sydney church stabbing a terrorist act
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During a service that was being live-streamed on Monday, a man attacked Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church, wounding him and at least three others. The attack occurred in the western Sydney suburb of Wakeley.

The 53-year-old bishop, who has a popular youth following on TikTok and was awarded by YouTube in 2023 for hitting 100,000 subscribers, has been a target for criticism, hate and online trolling.

The incident led to a confrontation outside the church as police clashed with an irate crowd of the bishop’s followers, who demanded that the attacker be handed over. Police arrested a teenage male at the scene and detained him at the church for his safety. "We believe there are elements that are satisfied in terms of religiously motivated extremism," stated New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb at a press conference. She later declared it a terrorist incident.

Commissioner Webb noted that the attack appeared premeditated as the attacker had traveled to the church from a distant location armed with a knife. However, she indicated that the early investigation suggests the attacker was acting alone.

Christ the Good Shepherd Church described the attack as an isolated incident and stated it was awaiting further police investigation regarding the attacker’s motive. "The Church denounces retaliation of any kind," it affirmed.

The clash outside the church resulted in about 30 people needing medical attention, with seven hospitalized. Several police officers were also injured, and 20 police vehicles were damaged, according to Webb.

This attack was the second major stabbing incident in Sydney in three days, following a tragic event at a Bondi area beachside mall where six people died and 12 were injured.

In response to these violent acts, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasized the nation's commitment to peace and unity. "We're a peace-loving nation. This is a time to unite, not divide, as a community and as a country," he said during a media conference.

Bishop Emmanuel, whose sermons are watched globally, has previously sparked controversy with his outspoken views. During the pandemic, he labeled lockdowns as "mass slavery." He has also been critical of Islam in his sermons, which has brought him significant online attention.

In related developments, the Lakemba mosque, one of Australia’s largest, received firebomb threats, heightening concerns about potential attacks on places of worship. "We are vigilant and asking the police to protect all places of worship. We are worried that there may be attacks on all forms of faith, and that is the last thing we need," said Gamel Kheir, Secretary of the Lebanese Muslim Association.

Australia’s spy chief, Mike Burgess, reassured the public that they are investigating the attacker’s connections to ensure there are no further threats to the community. "It is prudent that we do this to determine there's no threats or immediate threats to security. At this time, we're not seeing that," Burgess commented. He also acknowledged being aware of a video circulating that showed the alleged attacker being subdued while making inflammatory remarks.

Later Guerot told local news networks he was on a work visa set to expire within a couple of months. "I say this to Damien Guerot, who is dealing with his visa applications, that you are welcome here," Albanese told a press conference, in reply to a question his heroics. "You’re welcome to stay for as long as you like."

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