In this photo made video from the Australian Broadcasting Corp., a white SUV vehicle is stopped after allegedly striking pedestrians, Thursday, Dec. 21, 20217, in Melbourne, Australia. Local media say over a dozen people have been injured after a car drove into pedestrians on a sidewalk in central Melbourne. (Australian Broadcast Corp. via AP)

In this photo made video from the Australian Broadcasting Corp., a white SUV vehicle is stopped after allegedly striking pedestrians, Thursday, Dec. 21, 20217, in Melbourne, Australia. Local media say over a dozen people have been injured after a car drove into pedestrians on a sidewalk in central Melbourne. (Australian Broadcast Corp. via AP)

Car rams into pedestrians in Melbourne; 19 injured

Police say there is no evidence of a terrorist link to a car ramming attack Thursday in central Melbourne

Australian police said there is no evidence of a terrorist link to a car ramming attack Thursday in central Melbourne that left 19 people injured.

Police said the driver was a 32-year-old Australian citizen of Afghan decent who has a known history of drug use and mental health issues. The man was known to police for historical minor assault and traffic offences.

“We don’t at this time have any evidence or any intelligence to indicate there’s a connection with terrorism,” said Victoria state police acting commissioner Shane Patton.

The streets outside the city’s iconic Flinders Street railway station were crowded with Christmas shoppers late Thursday afternoon when a white Suzuki SUV ran a red light and sped up to slam into pedestrians crossing the road before crashing into a traffic barrier.

While police had earlier said 14 people had been injured, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that 19 people had been taken to hospitals. The four listed in critical condition are believed to include a preschool-aged child, Australian media reported.

Andrews described the incident as “an act of evil and an act of cowardice, perpetrated against innocent bystanders.”

Witnesses described a horrific scene.

“I was crossing Flinders Street on the way to the train station. I heard an engine rev behind me and heard a thump,” one man identified only as David said on ABC TV. He said he turned around saw “people literally getting thrown into the air as it hit them.”

Bystanders rushed to drag the driver out of the vehicle before police arrived to arrest the man.

Early reports said there were two men in the car, but Patton confirmed the suspect was driving alone.

Confusion had arisen when a second man was seen being apprehended alongside the driver. Patton said this was a 24-year-old man who was seen filming the incident on his mobile phone and found carrying a bag containing three knives.

Patton said that man was taken into custody to determine whether he was connected.

“At this stage we don’t believe that to be the case,” he said.

Patton said the investigation would involve the force’s counter-terrorism unit to ensure “that there isn’t that connection, and that there is no ongoing threat,” but that this was being treated as a singular incident. He said police were working with Australian intelligence agency ASIO, and with Australian Federal Police, and that there was no intelligence to suggest the man was a person of interest to those bodies.

“We understand he’s on a mental health plan and receiving treatment for a mental illness,” Patton said.

Patton said while police numbers would be increased around Melbourne in the coming days, there was no increased danger threat surrounding the city over the busy holiday period.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sent a tweet calling the incident “shocking” and said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims and those treating them.

It is the second time this year that Melbourne, regularly ranked one of the world’s most livable cities, has been traumatized by a car attack.

In January, six people were killed and more than 30 were injured when a car was driven up a footpath in Bourke Street, near Thursday’s incident. Police arrested the driver, who was known to police for a history of illicit drug use, family violence and mental health problems. Police said the case was not terrorism-related.

There have been a number of car attacks in other parts of the world in recent years, many of them linked to terrorism.

In October a man drove a truck down a New York City bicycle path, killing eight people. The driver is accused of providing material support to the Islamic State group among other charges including murder.

In an August attack, 13 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded when a vehicle rammed into pedestrians on a walking street in Barcelona. London has seen three such attacks this year, two linked to Islamic extremists and another seen as a reprisal attack outside a mosque, killing 13 people altogether.

A vehicle attack on a shopping street in Stockholm in April killed five people, while an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last December killed 12.

The deadliest such attack in recent years took place in Nice, France, in July 2016 when a man drove a refrigerated truck weighing about 20 tons into a crowd, killing 86 people.

Trevor Marshallsea, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming moves to the role of transportation minister in the NDP’s new cabinet. (B.C. government file photo)
Greater Victoria MLAs claim key roles in new cabinet

Transportation, Indigenous relations, children and family development ministries headed by locals

Victoria police are warning people after two Victoria residents fell victim to financial scams on Nov. 18 and 19. (Black Press Media File photo)
VicPD issue warning after two Victoria residents scammed $3,500

In both cases, the fraudsters were posing as financial services employees

Peninsula Panthers' owner and general manager Pete Zubersky questions the decision-making process leading to the suspension of play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL). (Black Press Media File)
Peninsula Panthers’ owner questions process behind suspension of Junior B hockey action

Pete Zubersky does not understand actions of provincial body administering amateur sports

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November, 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches – a fact highlighted in a report released by the BC Humanist Associaton on Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Christian-based prayer at inaugural Vancouver Island council meetings violates court ruling

Blessings violate Supreme Court decision that prayer in council is discriminatory

Penny Hart is emotional outside the Saanich Police Department as she pleads for helpt to find her son Sean Hart last seen Nov. 6 at a health institution in Saanich. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Mother of missing Saanich man begs public to help find her son

Sean Hart last seen leaving Saanich mental health facility Nov. 6

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney has spoken out about some veterans losing their Dimished Earning Capacity income. (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror photo)
Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

Concerned about veterans losing some income

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Port McNeill councillor Derek Koel busts a rap to help promote the town’s active transportation plan. (Facebook video screenshot)
VIDEO: Vancouver Island councillor makes rap video to promote active transportation plan

Active transportation is a personal matter for councillor Derek Koel.

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Most Read