Four people have been critically injured and 15 are in a stable condition after the man smashed into innocent shoppers. The victims – aged four to 83 – needed hospital treatment after the rampage at one of the city’s busiest intersections.
A pre-school aged child with a head injury has been taken to Royal Children’s Hospital and is currently in a stable condition. Police confirmed that nine foreign nationals were among the injured.
A witness called Sue, told Melbourne radio station 3AW: “We could hear this noise, as we looked left, we saw this white car, it just mowed everybody down,” she said. “People are flying everywhere. We heard thump, thump. People are running everywhere.”
Another witness, John, told ABC Radio Melbourne that he was still traumatised by the horror of the attack: “I’ve really never seen anything like this before and I haven’t stopped shaking.”
Noori was allegedly on a government-sponsored mental health plan, when he rammed into pedestrians on Flinders Street with his Suzuki SUV. An off-duty policeman dragged Noori out of his vehicle when he smashed into bollards, slowing his vehicle down. His brave act may have limited the damage the driver had wanted to inflict.
Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said that Noori was being held in custody, and was “under arrest for what we allege is a deliberate act”. The driver “has a history of drug use and mental health issues… At this time we do not have any evidence or intelligence to indicate a connection with terrorism or extremism”, Patton told AFP.
One of two Muslim men arrested filming the incident, was found with three knives in his bag, but police say they have not established a relationship between the two men who were arrested and the driver. He was released and expected to be charged with possession of cannabis and controlled weapons.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the attack an “isolated incident” and a “shocking crime”. There were “no known links to any political issues, or any links to extremist groups” Turnbull told the media at a press briefing, but added that “nothing should be ruled out”.
A senior police officer stated however that Noori had “attributed his actions to perceived mistreatment of Muslims”.
Buildings fronting onto Flinders Street were evacuated after the rampage and pedestrians and vehicles were advised to avoid the area. Premier Daniel Andrews said there was no intelligence to suggest a change in the current threat level or threat assessment.
Investigators are waiting to interview the driver, who remains in hospital under police guard.
In January, a car mowed down pedestrians in Melbourne’s busiest shopping mall, killing six people. Canberra says they have prevented 13 terror attacks on home soil in recent years.