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Knife attack in church near Sydney: a “terrorist act”, teenager arrested

The Australian police have qualifiedé Tuesday of "terrorist act" a stabbing attack committed the day before by a teenager in an Assyrian church in the suburbs of Sydney, which triggered the fury of the faithful and clashes in the street.

A bishop and the 16-year-old suspect, who was arrested, are among those treated for “non-life-threatening injuries” after this attack which occurred Monday evening.

The young man dressed in black approached the altar, raised his right arm and struck the bishop of the Assyrian community Mar Mari Emmanuel with a knife, causing panic and screams among the faithful, according to the images of the religious service broadcast live.

The clergyman of this branch of Eastern Christians, stabbed in the head and chest, is in a stable condition and his health “improving,” the church informed Tuesday.

“After examining all the elements, I have declared that this was an act of terrorism,” announced Karen Webb, Police Commissioner of the New South Wales, during a press conference.

This attack is considered an act of religious “extremism”, she added, specifying that the suspect is “known to the police” but does not appear in any anti-terrorist file.

– “Individual act” –

“At this stage it appears to be an individual act,” said Mike Burgess, head of Australian intelligence. “There is no indication that anyone else is involved, but the investigation remains open,” he added, saying there was no need to raise the country's terrorist threat level.

Knife attack in church near Sydney: a “terrorist act”, teenager arrested

New South Wales Police outside Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley in the western suburbs of Sydney, April 15, 2024 © AFP – DAVID GRAY

The suspect is being treated for hand injuries and was taken to a safe location, as the attack sparked fury among worshipers. Police previously said he was 15 years old.

Three other people suffered minor injuries in the attack and around 30 others received treatment after a riot that occurred outside the church.

For three hours, more than 500 demonstrators clashed with riot police who wanted prevent them from entering the church and lynching the teenager.

An AFP journalist saw projectiles thrown, before the police, equipped with shields, do not repel the crowd.

Twenty police vehicles and some houses were damaged by demonstrators who threw bottles, bricks and other objects.

A police officer, who twisted knee and had a broken tooth, was “hit with a metal object”, according to the police, who reported another agent, hit in particular by a brick, whose “jaw is fractured”.

AFP identified the location from the video as Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, a western suburb of Sydney.

The neighborhood is known for welcoming members of the small Assyrian Christian community who fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.

– Call for calm –

Calm finally returned in the evening, but additional police officers were deployed in the neighborhood to protect religious buildings.

Knife attack in church near Sydney: a “terrorist act”, teenager arrested

A woman lights a candle after laying flowers on April 14, 2024, in honor of the victims of the stabbing attack at a shopping center in Sydney © AFP – DAVID GRAY

The crowd expressed “an emotional response to what happened in the church”, after rumors spread on the internet, police explained, without providing details.

New South Wales Prime Minister Chris Minns appealed for calm in a joint statement with Christian and Muslim authorities.

“We call on everyone to act with kindness and respect for others,” they wrote. “This is the time to show that we are strong and united.”

This new attack comes two days after another stabbing in Sydney which left six people dead, including five women, on Saturday in a shopping center. The terrorist motive was ruled out for this killing committed by a man suffering from a mental illness who was shot.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116