SYDNEY – The Prime Minister of Australia said on Friday that the vehicle attack on Thursday in Melbourne was not a terrorist act, although the suspect claimed to have acted because of the mistreatment of Muslims.
The driver of the vehicle, a 32-year-old Australian citizen of Afghan descent who has not yet been officially interrogated, has a history of “serious mental illness and drug abuse,” Malcolm Turnbull said in a news conference.
Turnbull labeled the act “despicable and cowardly” but said it was “an isolated incident” as the suspect had no links to “any political issues or extremist groups.”
The prime minister further assured that the government still has not ruled anything out.
“Terrorism is politically motivated violence. At this stage, the police are not satisfied they can describe it as that, although he has made reference to the perceived mistreatment of Muslims, as a justification for his actions,” Turnbull said.
Victoria Police raised the number of injured in the attack from 19 to 20, out of whom 18 are hospitalized, including a four-year-old South Korean child.
In a statement, the police said that currently 14 people remain in the hospital, three of whom are in a critical condition, including an Australian senior citizen and two South Korean nationals.
Among the injured are nine foreigners, including one Chinese citizen, an Indian and a four-year-old New Zealander with head injuries.
After the incident, police arrested a second suspect, a 24-year-old man who was reportedly recording the event and carrying several knives in his backpack, but the authorities believe he has no connection with the incident.
The event took place close to where another incident occurred on Jan. 20, killing six people, including a child and a baby, and injuring more than 30 others.
The suspect of the Jan. 20 incident, Dimitrious Gargasoulas, fled the police after ramming his vehicle into pedestrians. He was later arrested and was charged with murder and attempted murder.