A major counter-terrorism investigation was under way last night following a hostage crisis in which a paroled gunman and another man were killed and three police officers were wounded at a block of serviced apartments in Melbourne.
The Australian Police gunned down the hostage-taker after he held a woman for at least two hours and another man’s body was found at the entrance to the apartments in bayside Brighton. Senior police sources confirmed last night that the incident was being treated as a terrorist attack unless proven otherwise.
The Australian confirmed that the hostage-taker, whose body was riddled with bullet wounds, was known to counter-terrorism police but that investigators were open-minded about whether terrorism was the trigger for the shootout. The fact a counter-terrorism source said the gunman was on parole will, however, raise serious questions and put pressure on the Victorian government.
It is understood that the man had been known to security services for nearly a decade, having first come to the attention of authorities during the 2009 terrorist plot to attack Holsworthy Army barracks in Sydney’s southwest. The Australian has been told the man had been a “peripheral figure” in the Neath plot, which led to three men being convicted and sentenced to long jail terms. Two of the men were Somalis who had trained with al-Shabab, a Somali-based Islamist terrorist group. The third man was Lebanese.
Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the man stormed out of the apartment block and shot three police about 6pm. Mr Crisp said that a woman had called triple-0 after 4pm declaring that there was a “hostage situation’’ and a “deceased male”.
The volley of shots in which the hostage-taker was killed was heard across the suburb about 20 minutes after two unidentified callers to the Seven Network’s Melbourne newsroom referred to the hostage drama.
It was possible, he said, the alleged explosion was in fact gunfire. He said two of the police were taken to hospital and a third was treated at the scene. Police said in a statement that they safely rescued a woman who was being held “against her will’’ in the apartment.
“Another man was earlier located deceased with a gunshot wound in the lobby of the serviced apartment building just after 4pm,” police said.