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On August 13th, in the Australian metropolis of Sydney, a 21-year-old man stabbed two women, one of whom died. Had members of the public not reacted quickly and restrained the attacker, more people could have been injured or killed. Clever, quick-thinking good samaritans grabbed a nearby milk crate and two chairs and used them to pin the attacker to the ground, where he was restrained until police arrived.
Once police apprehended the attacker, they discovered among his possessions a thumb drive with information about violent attacks in the U.S. and New Zealand. According to some witnesses at the crime scene, the attacker could be heard yelling “Allahu akbar,” which translates to “God is great” and has been linked with terrorist organizations.
Two of the people who restrained the attacker described him as a white man yelling phrases often associated with Muslim radical terrorist groups. However, police are currently not treating the attack as an act of terrorism, as initial investigations have not linked the attacker to any terrorist groups and all evidence points to his acting as a lone wolf. The attacker is also said to have a history of mental illness.
The nature of the stabbings appears to be random, as neither of the two victims was in any way linked. One, a 21-year-old woman, died in an apartment building, and her exact cause of death has yet to be revealed. The other, a 41-year-old, is currently in stable condition in a local hospital with a stab wound to her back.
Currently, the suspect is in police custody, and he is expected to face homicide and assault charges. If investigators find new evidence linking the suspect to terrorist groups, he may also be charged with terrorism offenses.
Although the attacker only stabbed two people, videos circulating on Twitter depicted a chaotic scene. In one video, the suspect can be seen running into a busy intersection and jumping onto the hood of a car, waving a large knife and yelling. Covered in blood, the suspect shouts, “Shoot me, I want to die.”
The driver of the car, who was transporting customers for a rideshare service, later confirmed to police that the assailant jumped onto the hood and then the roof of his car before shouting. The driver also told police that he believed the attacker would self-detonate, so to get the attacker off his car, he accelerated rapidly and turned left, which sent the suspect flying to the ground.
At that moment, other citizens reacted. One pedestrian had already cornered the assailant with a wooden chair, so others joined this pedestrian and used the combined weight of a milk crate and another chair to keep the attacker pinned to the ground. In video footage of the incident, a large group of people can be seen restraining the suspect, who remained on the ground until police arrived to arrest him. Both Australia’s prime minister and the state police minister for New South Wales, in which Sydney is located, have praised the bystanders’ actions as life-saving.