Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 5 June 2020

Greenacre crash: 12 injured as car smashes into hijab shop in Sydney, Australia

Police re-arrest male driver of car who was questioned and released after the incident on Thursday

Australian police are investigating what appears to be a ramming attack on a hijab store in Sydney which left 12 people injured.

Officers on Friday re-arrested the male driver of the SUV that was driven at speed into the Hijab House shop in Greenacre, in the city’s west, on Thursday afternoon, just days before Eid.

Video circulated on social media showed the driver of the four-wheel drive at traffic lights doing a drag-race style burnout, creating a thick cloud of white smoke, pushing another car out of the way before driving into the store.

New South Wales Police Superintendent Murray Reynolds said on 2GB radio “if you look at it, it does appear as though it’s done deliberately”.

The 51-year-old driver of the van was taken to hospital under arrest, and underwent blood and urine tests. Police said he was known to them for previous “traffic matters”.

The man was later taken to the Bankstown police station for questioning before being released, but was rearrested from a home in Greenacre on Friday following further inquiries, police said.

Most of the injured people were women aged between 18 and 30. It is understood that the store owner’s daughter was among the injured. One of the victim's injuries were serious but not life-threatening.

Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell told local media on Thursday: “I’ve seen the footage, quite clearly from the footage he’s pushing the vehicle in front of him quite hard in order to smoke the tyres like that, but what has caused that to happen I can’t say”.

“At this stage we have crash investigation and detectives investigating the matter … we do know he is known for traffic matters, but that’s it… There’s no information that’s been given to me that there’s any medical episode.”

John Makhlouf, the owner of a petrol station in the area, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that it was “very lucky” no pedestrians were crossing at the intersection or standing outside the shop at the time.

“I saw a lot of smoke and heard a beeping horn… One car got pushed out of the way and the other car went straight into the shop and crashed and you could hear the horn constantly beeping,” he said.

Although there was no initial indication that the crash was ideologically motivated, the proximity of the attack to Eid and recent developments in Australia have led to suspicion the man was deliberately targeting Muslims.

In November, Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation director general Mike Burgess warned a parliamentary committee that there was “no doubt” some right-wing extremists have been inspired by the Christchurch mosque attack, and that an attack in Australia by the extreme right was “plausible”. His agency's annual report said the threat has increased in recent years.

Australian author and journalist Andy Fleming, who has closely monitored the extreme right in Australia for 15 years, told The National at the time that “many thousands (on the extreme right) have been radicalised in the recent period, and it's also possible for a so-called 'lone wolf' to again emerge from this milieu”.

That same month, a heavily pregnant Muslim woman was brutally assaulted in a cafe in Sydney by a man who had shouted derogatory comments about Muslims before punching and kicking her.

In December, a Melbourne man was convicted of plotting to kill Muslims and left-wing activists with bombs.

Two days ago an Adelaide man appeared in court after a police raid triggered by Facebook posts supportive of the Christchurch mosque attack found weapons in his home, including a medieval mace, a crossbow, an extendable baton and two flick knives. Chad Rolf Vinzelberg, 38, pleaded guilty to four counts of possessing a prohibited weapon.

Updated: May 22, 2020 12:35 PM

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