Senior law enforcement officials have named the 18-year-old man who was shot dead after stabbing two officers from the Joint Counter Terrorism team outside a Melbourne police station last night.
Abdul Numan Haider was the “person of interest” who was expected to attend an interview at the Endeavour Hills Police Station when the incident occurred, senior law enforcement sources confirmed.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said Haider, who was under investigation and had his passport cancelled, was allegedly seen last week with an Islamic State (IS) flag.
“There’s certainly information that he was present at the shopping centre in the last week or so with the flag that appeared to be an ISIS [Islamic State] flag,” Chief Commissioner Lay said.
“It’s not an offence but clearly it drew our attention to this person and we had a conversation with this person.”
Haider, whose family are from Afghanistan, had also been associated with the radical Islamic group called Al-Furqan.
It is understood he had recently moved away from the group.
Based in Springvale, in Melbourne’s south-east, associates of Al-Furqan were the targets of terrorism raids by Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police in 2012.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said authorities had been monitoring Haider for three months.
“A range of factors that gave us concern about possibly his intentions and what he may do, but again it wasn’t specific,” he said.
“I want to reinforce to everybody that police, as we did last week, take early action to disrupt and intervene when we need to.
“On this occasion we made the decision that we needed to talk to him to understand a little more what his thoughts and motivations may be.”
A close family friend of the Haider family, who did not want to be identified, said Haider’s family had become increasingly concerned about his behaviour in recent months.
They had encouraged their son to seek professional help from a counsellor.
It is understood that authorities visited the family in May to discuss Haider’s behaviour.
Last night, Haider’s mother and father tried to prevent their son from leaving the house over concerns for his safety.
Despite their attempts, Haider left his Narre Warren home to meet with members of the Joint Counter Terrorism team who had requested a meeting at the Endeavour Hills Police Station.
It is believed Haider called police when he arrived at the station and told them he did not want to meet them inside the police station.
The two officers then went out to meet Haider and the altercation occurred.
Officers stabbed in arms, neck and head before shooting Haider
Chief Commissioner Lay said Haider attacked a police officer who tried to shake his hand outside the station, and then stabbed another officer, about 7:40pm (AEST) on Tuesday.
“When our police members have approached this young man, one’s extended his hand to shake his hand and the response has been he’s been stabbed in the arm,” he said.
“The attacker’s then turned on the second police member and stabbed him three or four times in the body and in the head.
“The first wounded member has then shot and killed the young man.”
One of the injured officers is from the AFP and the other is a Victoria Police member, they were both rushed to hospital.
Chief Commissioner Lay said both police officers required surgery.
The ABC has been told that Haider had made threats against the Prime Minister, however Mr Colvin said no specific threats were made.
“This is early stages of an investigation … What I will say is and what I can be very confident on is there were no specific threats made,” he said.
Haider’s car is parked at a childcare centre next to the police station and the area is locked down.
Natalie Morales, who works at the childcare centre, said staff were unable to contact parents this morning to tell them the facility was closed, because the contact lists were in the building.
“That can happen anywhere around Australia, unfortunately it happened next door to the childcare I work at,” Ms Morales said.
“Even if it happened during the day, we have a pin code that only the staff and families know, so no-one can access the centre even if we had children in the centre.”
Abbott speaks to family of injured officers
Speaking in Hawaii while en route to a UN Security Council meeting in New York, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Melbourne incident was “nasty” and showed the threat from extremists was real.
“Obviously, this indicates that there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts,” he said.
“It also indicates that the police will be constantly vigilant to protect us against people who would do us harm.”
Mr Abbott said he had spoken to the wives of both police officers involved.
Chief Commissioner Lay said the stab wounds to the police officers were significant and required surgery, but that both officers were in a stable condition this morning.
“Our AFP colleague underwent surgery overnight for some significant injuries, he’s come through that surgery it appears pretty well, he’s in a serious but stable condition,” Chief Commissioner Lay said.
“Our Victorian Police member has had quite a significant stab wound to his arm, I understand he’ll undergo surgery today to repair some ligament and nerve damage.
“So the physical injuries will heal quick enough and obviously we need to think about the psychological stuff and give these people as much support as we possibly can.”
Victorian Premier urges community to unite
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said it was important that the incident did not divide the community.
“Let me make it very, very clear, one of the greatest strengths, one of the greatest assets we have here in Victoria is our harmonious, diverse, multi cultural, multi-faith community,” Dr Napthine said.
“We need to preserve and protect that. We need to enhance and build on that.
“We shouldn’t let a single incident divide that. We need to show each other respect, be tolerant and remain united.”
He said authorities were working together to ensure the safety of the community.
“It is imperative that we do all that we can to reassure all members of the Victorian community that everything is being done to protect our safety and making sure that our community continues to work together as a whole Victorian community,” Dr Napthine said.
Islamic leaders criticise police investigation
Leaders of Melbourne’s Islamic community have criticised police over their investigation into the fatal shooting.
Gaith Krayem from the Islamic Council of Victoria said police were quick to jump to conclusions.
“I was disappointed with the immediate press conference police held last night. It was held three hours after the event, and they drew conclusions immediately,” Mr Krayem said.
“There needs to be a proper process as there always should be when police are involved in a fatality.”
Mr Krayen said the public needed to reserve their judgement until a full and objective investigation has taken place.
“Immediately, individuals such as this unfortunately are given these labels of a radical, or a terrorist, or an extremist,” he said.
“Unfortunately, because of the environment we’re in, as soon as you label somebody like that, people don’t want to then question what occurred.
“We don’t know really what happened when this young man arrived at the police station.
“What we do know is that there’s an 18-year-old young man who is dead this morning, there are two police officers in hospital, there is a family who is grieving.”
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