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5 Jun, 2017 22:20

ISIS claims responsibility for Melbourne shooting & hostage situation

Australian police are treating a shooting and hostage situation in Melbourne that left two men dead, including the attacker, as an “act of terrorism”. It comes after Islamic State reportedly claimed responsibility for the drama.

“We are treating it as an act of terrorism,” Victoria state police Commissioner Graham Ashton said on Tuesday.

“We believe this person was there with those sorts of [terrorist] intentions, albeit we don’t know whether it was something planned or something spontaneous at this stage,” he said.

Authorities have identified the attacker as a Somali-born man, Yacqub Khayre, 29, who lived with his mother in a Melbourne suburb. Police are now searching the mother's house.

Khayre was on parole after serving time in prison for a violent burglary in 2012, Ashton said. According to Australian media, he was also known to counter-terrorism authorities for his alleged involvement in a 2009 terror plot to attack the army barracks in Sydney.

Victoria police shot dead the man involved in the hostage situation at an apartment in Brighton near Melbourne Monday, after he began firing on police just before 6pm local time. 

Police say the suspect had been holding a woman against her will at the Bay Street apartment complex. The body of another man was discovered in the foyer of the residence. 

Melbourne’s Seven News are reporting that a staff member received a call from a man, thought to be the shooter, just before gunfire rang out on Bay Street. The identity of the caller has yet to be verified.

Authorities believe the gunman hired a sex worker whom he booked through an escort agency. Prior to taking the prostitute hostage, Khayre killed an Australian national born in China to lure police to the complex.

Armed police units arrived at the scene after the female hostage, whose identity has not been released, made an emergency call alerting authorities to the situation.

“At the scene, when this person first arrived there, a man was shot, we believe, by the gunman,” Ashton said. “He was an employee of the serviced apartments, so he appears to have been in the wrong place at, unluckily, the wrong time.”

Three police officers also sustained non-life threatening injuries during the siege. One officer was treated at the scene while the two others remain in hospital.

The Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with IS, said the shooting was carried out by a “soldier” of their terrorist organization, according to Reuters.

While police are treating the incident as an act of terrorism, Ashton was not able to confirm that ISIS was behind the attack.

"We're aware of, online, them having claimed responsibility, but then they always tend to jump up and claim responsibility every time something happens," he told reporters, alleging that maybe he subscribed to Al-Qaeda ideology.

Ashton added that so far there was “no evidence” to suggest that the attack was linked to recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.