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    Friday, June 14, 2024

    Man kills 6 in stabbing attack at mall in Sydney suburb

    Sydney — A knife-wielding assailant killed six people and injured several others at a mall in a Sydney suburb on Saturday and was fatally shot by a police officer, Australian authorities said.

    The attacker, who police said they believed was a 40-year-old man, stabbed at least nine people in Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center before a senior police officer who was in the vicinity shot him dead, Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke of the New South Wales Police said at a news conference Saturday evening.

    Five people died at the mall and several of the victims are in either serious or critical condition, he added. A sixth person died at the hospital, police said. Among the injured was a 9-month-old infant who required surgery. The baby’s mother was the person who died in the hospital, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

    Cooke said the attacker briefly walked into the mall on Saturday afternoon before leaving. He returned soon after with a knife.

    The alleged attacker was known to law enforcement, police said, without identifying him. Preliminary investigations indicated that he acted alone and that the incident was not an act of terrorism, though the motive was still unclear, said Police Commissioner Karen Webb.

    “The devastating scenes at Bondi Junction are beyond words or understanding,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a news conference.

    “This was a horrific act of violence indiscriminately targeted at innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday, doing their shopping,” he continued. He praised the bravery of the officer who responded to the “very dangerous” incident by herself, saying: “She is certainly a hero. There is no doubt she saved lives through her action.”

    Paula Masselos, mayor of Waverley Council, a Sydney suburb, said on Sky News Australia that the officer was a “hero of a policewoman,” adding that there was a bystander who stopped the suspect from entering a children’s area.

    Outside the hospital, Isaac Weinberg told Australia’s ABC News that his wife, Yvonne, had been stabbed.

    “She thought she got punched and then she touched herself and there was blood,” he said. “Apart from that she’s okay. She’s alive and that’s all that matters.”

    The upscale Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall is in the affluent eastern suburbs of Sydney, less than two miles from Bondi Beach. Masselos, the mayor, described the mall as a “meeting place” popular with young people.

    It is normally a bustling but peaceful hub of shoppers drawn to high-end stores including Gucci, Chanel and Christian Dior. There is little visible security and anyone can enter the mall off the street from multiple points. Most days, its corridors are full of shoppers from around the world, elderly mall-walkers staying fit and young mothers making use of the cafes and play equipment for their children.

    The incident has shocked Australia, a nation where mass killings are extremely uncommon. There were 79 victims of homicide and related offenses in 2022 in New South Wales, a state of more than 8 million people. The most common homicide weapon was a knife, partly due to Australia’s tight gun restrictions. Saturday’s attack was the deadliest mass killing in the state since 2011, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, when 11 people were killed in an arson attack on a nursing home.

    The state premier of New South Wales, Chris Minns, said he was “horrified” by the news and thanked police, emergency services and the community “for their bravery in the face of this shocking incident.”

    “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were lost, and wish the injured a speedy and complete recovery,” Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Australia, said in a message shared by the embassy.

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