Police in Melbourne, Australia have two men in custody after a car plowed into Christmas shoppers earlier today. That certainly sounds similar to other car-attack terrorist scenarios such as in Germany, the UK, and here in New York. However, authorities are downplaying the potential for a terrorist motive and now believe the second man may have nothing to do with the attack:
A second man arrested after the car attack in Melbourne had been filming on his phone at the scene & three knives were found in his bag. Police say they don't currently believe he is connected to the incident https://t.co/1lgGKoCWgn pic.twitter.com/1qAcMrrrRN
— CNN (@CNN) December 21, 2017
The driver of a car which plowed into Christmas shoppers in Melbourne Thursday had a history of drug use and mental health issues, police said.
Acting chief commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton told reporters that while the crash was considered to be deliberate, there was no evidence of a link to terrorism. …
A 24-year-old man was also arrested at the scene, after he was seen filming the incident on his phone. Police found three knives in his bag. The man is being interviewed by police but Patton said at this stage, “we don’t yet have any relationship established between the 24-year-old man and the driver… in fact, there may be no relationship between them.”
The driver was known to Victorian Police due to “historical assault matters” and a history of drug use. “We understand he is on a mental health plan and receiving treatment for a mental illness,” Patton said.
The driver, police say, is a 32-year old man of Afghan descent, known to police but not for any terror-related issues. They describe him as a drug addict with mental illness. None of their intelligence or the evidence gathered so far shows any connection to terrorism.
This sounds somewhat familiar in a different way, as ABC notes:
It is the second time this year that Melbourne, regularly ranked one of the world’s most livable cities, has been traumatized by a car attack.
In January, six people were killed and more than 30 were injured when a car was driven up a footpath in Bourke Street, near Thursday’s incident. Police arrested the driver, who was known to police for a history of illicit drug use, family violence and mental health problems. Police said the case was not terrorism-related.
That’s a heck of a coincidence. And what about the second man arrested? He happened to be filming the attack with three knives in his bag. In a March terror attack in London, the assailant first used a car and then began attacking pedestrians with a knife, killing a police officer before being shot to death by other officers. That attack took place on the one-year anniversary of suicide bombings in Brussels; today’s attack is just two days off from the one-year anniversary of the truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market that killed twelve people and injured dozens of others.
That’s a lot of coincidences. It’s too early to jump to a conclusion of terrorism, but it’s also too early to entirely rule it out either. We’ll update this post with further developments as necessary.