Terror suspect had passport axed
A man shot dead after he stabbed two Australian anti-terror police officers had his passport cancelled on national security grounds, it has emerged.
Some experts suspect yesterday's attack was inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group's call to supporters to wage terror in their home countries.
An Australian Federal Police officer and a Victoria state officer who were part of a Joint Counter Terrorism Team had asked the 18 year old to come to a police station in south-east Melbourne to answer questions after first drawing their attention three months ago, Victoria police chief, commissioner Ken Lay, said.
The trio exchanged handshakes before the man began stabbing the two officers. One of the officers shot the man dead.
Police have not released the dead man's name, but opposition leader Bill Shorten identified him during a speech in parliament as Numan Haider.
"Our members had no inkling that this individual posed a threat to them and as far as we were concerned, it was going to be an amicable discussion about that individual's behaviour," Assistant commissioner Luke Cornelius of Victoria state police said, adding that the officer had "no choice" but to shoot.
It appeared the man was acting on his own and that the violence was an isolated incident, Mr Cornelius said.
The man had recently exhibited a series of behaviour that had caused police "significant concern", Mr Lay said, including being seen waving what appeared to be an Islamic State flag at a shopping centre.
Australian Federal Police acting commissioner Andrew Colvin said the man's passport was cancelled about a week ago on national security grounds.
Mr Colvin said it was not yet clear whether reports that the man had threatened prime minister Tony Abbott before he was shot were true, but the man had not made any "specific threats".
"It was a range of factors that escalated our interest in this gentleman over the recent days - a range of factors that gave us concern about possibly his intentions and what he may do but, again, it wasn't specific," Mr Colvin said.
A second knife was found on the man's body after he was shot.
Both police officers were taken to a hospital. The federal officer was in a serious but stable condition and the state policeman's condition was said to be stable.
Mr Abbott, on his way to New York to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting on the problem of 15,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, said: "Obviously this indicates that there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts."
A statement issued by IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and made public this week asked Muslims to use all means to kill a "disbelieving American or European - especially the spiteful and filthy French - or an Australian or a Canadian" or any disbeliever and others whose countries had joined to try to disable and destroy the group.
Michael Wesley, professor of national security at Australian National University, said: "I think that this attack occurring in the context of the fatwa that came out earlier this week, a fatwa that implored followers to attack infidels and ask no one's permission, thereby really an incitement to lone-wolf attacks - I don't think that's a coincidence at all."
The Islamic Council of Victoria state, a leading Muslim group, said the tragedy highlighted the need to deal with the root causes of alienation and disaffection of people such as the man killed.
Meanwhile an Australian air force contingent including eight F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters has arrived in the United Arab Emirates. They are expected to be used in air strikes against IS fighters in Iraq, although the Australian government has yet to commit to a combat role.
Earlier this month, Australia raised its terror warning to the second-highest level, citing the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. Last week police detained 16 people in counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and charged one with conspiring with an IS movement leader in Syria to kidnap and behead a randomly-selected person. Another man faces a lesser weapons charge; the rest were released.
The government is proposing a law making it an offence to visit terrorism hotspots abroad. It is designed to make it easier to prosecute Australian jihadists when they return home from Middle East battlefields and carries sentences of up to life in prison.