Melbourne attacker charged with attempted murder

Afghan refugee who drove his car into pedestrians in Melbourne charged with 18 counts of attempted murder. Motive not yet clear.

Elad Benari ,

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Flag of Australia

An Afghan refugee accused of ploughing his car into pedestrians in Melbourne was charged with 18 counts of attempted murder Saturday, AFP reported.

Saeed Noori, who has a history of drug abuse and mental problems, allegedly drove his car through a busy downtown intersection on Thursday, careering into tourists and shoppers and injuring at least 19 people.

His motive is not clear, although police allege he made "utterances" to them about voices, dreams and the "poor treatment of Muslims" after his arrest.

No link to any terrorist group has been found, noted AFP.

"A 32-year-old man has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder and one count of conduct endangering life," Victoria state police said in a statement, citing Thursday's attack.

Broadcaster ABC said Noori did not apply for bail when he appeared in court on Saturday, putting his head in his hands and becoming emotional when he saw his mother weeping during the short hearing.

The magistrate ordered a psychiatric assessment and he is due to appear in court again on Wednesday.

Like other countries, Australia has been taking steps to prevent vehicle attacks in crowded public places since the Nice truck incident in southern France last year that killed 86 people.

Australia raised the terror threat alert level to high in September of 2014, the same month on which it arrested 15 terror suspects who were planning to behead a random member of the public in a campaign of terror.

Since that time, 74 people have been arrested in 347 counter-terror investigations.

Only a year ago, police prevented another attack in the same area on Christmas Day, arresting several men who planned to use explosives, knives and guns to target the location.

Last month, Australian authorities announced they foiled a terrorist attack that was planned for New Year’s Eve.

An Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizer had planned to buy a gun and kill as many revellers as possible on New Year's Eve in Melbourne's popular Federation Square. He was detained before he could carry out his plot.