Investigators explore possible terror link in Melbourne car ramming after driver mentions injustice against Muslims

Australian police are investigating the motive of a man who rammed a car into a crowd of pedestrians in Melbourne, injuring 19 people—nine of them foreigners.

Victoria state police Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said Thursday police are exploring a possible link to terrorism after the suspect rambled about injustice toward Muslims.

The car’s driver, 32-year-old Saeed Noori, is an Australian citizen of Afghan descent, with a history of drug use and mental health issues.

He is believed to have acted alone in the isolated incident.

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Australian police stand near a crashed vehicle after they arrested the driver of a vehicle that had ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police and paramedics are seen near the place where they arrested the driver of a vehicle that had ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station, in central Melbourne, Australia, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police is seen near the place where they arrested the driver of a vehicle that had ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station, in central Melbourne, Australia, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police is seen near the place where they arrested the driver of a vehicle that had ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station, in central Melbourne, Australia, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police and paramedics are seen near the place where they arrested the driver of a vehicle that had ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station, in central Melbourne, Australia, December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police are seen where a driver was arrested after ploughing into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Australian police are seen where a driver was arrested after ploughing into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui
Police officers secure the area as members of the public stand behind police tape after the arrest of the driver of a vehicle that ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton
Police officers stand guard as members of the public stand behind police tape after the arrest of the driver of a vehicle that ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Sonali Paul
Members of the public stand behind police tape after Australian police said on Thursday they have arrested the driver of a vehicle that ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton
Members of the public stand behind police tape after Australian police said on Thursday they have arrested the driver of a vehicle that ploughed into pedestrians at a crowded intersection near the Flinders Street train station in central Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton
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Patton said Friday that Noori babbled about the poor treatment of Muslims under police watch in a hospital Thursday evening.

“He made some utterances in respect to a number of matters,” Patton told Australia’s Channel Nine television network. “He spoke of dreams and voices but also attributed some of his activities as well due to the mistreatment of Muslims.”

Patton said authorities have yet to connect Noori to any extremist links.

“We haven’t identified him linked to any groups. We haven’t identified anyone inciting him to do any actions, or any prior extremist activities prior to those utterances last night,” he said.

Seven of the 19 people who were hospitalized were released overnight. Three patients are in critical condition, according to Australian media reports.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed Patton’s statement.

He said “no terrorism link has been identified” but reiterated that “nothing should be ruled out.”

“This was a despicable and cowardly act,” Turnbull said.

He urged Australians not to be fearful of subsequent attacks.

“But I want to reassure Australians that this is an isolated incident. We should continue to go about our daily lives the way we always do.”

Noori, an Afghan refugee who went to Australia “through normal refugee programs,” according to Turnbull, drove a white SUV through a red light Thursday and sped into pedestrians crossing a busy street in central Melbourne. He then crashed into a traffic barrier.

Noori is expected to undergo psychiatric assessment and to be interviewed by police Friday afternoon.

Police arrested another man, 24, who was seen filming the incident and had three knives on his person.

He’s since been released and has not been linked to the car ramming.

 

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