SYDNEY: An attacker who fatally knifed six people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in the beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene.

The assailant was shot by a police officer after he attacked shoppers in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, police said in a statement.

Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference. Police at this stage do not believe the attack was terrorism-related, Webb said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no indication yet of the man’s motive.

Victims include five women; nine-month-old baby among injured

“This was a horrific act of violence, indiscriminately targeting innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday doing their shopping,” he told a presser.

“Tonight the first thoughts of all Australians are with the victims of these terrible acts,” he said.

Pope ‘deeply saddened’

Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” by the stabbing attack, the Vatican said Saturday.

“Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the violent attack in Sydney and conveys his spiritual solidarity to all those affected by this senseless tragedy,” said Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in a message addressed to the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Colin Fisher.

Australia has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare. After the stabbing reports, police said, emergency services were called to the mall, about three kilometres from Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach and popular with children and families.

Witness account

Ayush Singh, 25, was working in a cafe in the mall when he saw the attack and then heard gunshots as police responded. “I saw the guy with the knife running and chasing people. As he walked just past beside me I heard two or three gunshots and the guy was neutralised,” he said.

“People around me were terrified. There were some old ladies I helped to get them inside a safe place inside the cafe.”

Two other witnesses said they heard shots. “Even 20 minutes after people were rushed out of the mall, I saw SWAT teams of people sweeping the surrounding streets,” one witness said.

The other witness said they saw a woman lying on the ground and took shelter in a jewellery store.

An eyewitness described the policewoman shooting the attacker to state broadcaster ABC. “If she did not shoot him, he would have kept going, he was on the rampage,” said the man, who did not give his name. “She went over and was giving him CPR. He had a nice big blade on him. He looked like he was on a killing spree.”

Several posts on social media showed crowds fleeing the mall and police cars and emergency services rushing to the area.

The mall will remain closed on Sunday while an investigation got underway, police said.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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