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Australia: Sydney mall reopens after stabbing attack

April 18, 2024

A mall in the eastern Australian city that was the scene of deadly stabbings almost a week ago has reopened to the public. But stores remained closed for now in a gesture to honor the victims of the attacks.

People coming out of the Bondi Junction shopping mall on April 18, 2024
Bondi Junction Westfield mall reopened so people could pay their respectsImage: Ayush Kumar/AFP

The Sydney shopping mall where six people were stabbed to death by a lone attacker five days ago was again made accessible the public on Thursday in a "slow reopening" meant to give people the chance to come to terms with the incident, which shocked Australia.

Shops in the Westfield mall in Bondi Junction remained closed for a "community reflection day" and will reopen properly only on Friday, with heightened security.

A candlelight vigil will also be held at nearby Bondi Beach on Sunday to mourn the victims, authorities said.

The shock caused by the mall attack in Sydney has been compounded by another stabbing attack on Monday in which a Christian bishop and priest were attacked and injured during a church service.

Bouquets of flowers at a memorial on Oxford Street near the Bondi Junction mall on April 18, 2024
A flower memorial has been set up in a nearby streetImage: Ayush Kumar/AFP

Chance to 'turn the page'

The reopening was meant as an opportunity for the public to show solidarity and express their condolences, as well as to "turn the page on what's been a very difficult period" for the city, said New South Wales Premier Chris Morris.

He called the reopening of the mall a "first step in healing."

Reflecting the public mood of mourning, digital displays in the mall showed black ribbons on a white background, and people were invited to write in a condolence book on a table surrounded by white flower bouquets and wreaths.

Two women looking at a flower memorial on Oxford Street near the Bondi Junction mall on April 18, 2024
The attack caused great shock in a normally peaceful cityImage: Ayush Kumar/AFP

Praise for courageous interventions

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has praised those who took action against the knife-wielding attacker to prevent more deaths.

They include the Pakistani security guard Muhammad Taha, who received stab wounds in the stomach.  

Albanese said his government would consider giving citizenship to Taha, who is working in Australia on a temporary visa that is due to expire within weeks.

Earlier, French citizen Damien Guerot was also offered citizenship after the construction worker held back the attacker on an escalator using a plastic bollard, thus preventing him from continuing his rampage on a higher floor of the mall.

Another Pakistani security guard, Faraz Tahir, was killed by the attacker as he reportedly tried to engage with him.

The alleged attacker was said by his family to have had a long history of schizophrenia and to have lacked social skills, frustration over which they said might have led to his attacking mostly women during his rampage.

He was shot dead by a police officer after seeming to threaten her with his weapon.

At least 12 people were also injured in the attacks.

Second stabbing attack

In a separate incident, a 16-year-old boy is in police custody after he allegedly stabbed a Christian bishop and priest during a church service at an Orthodox Assyrian church in Sydney.

The boy is said by police to have had a religious or ideological motivation for his attack, which caused a riot outside the church as people sought vengeance amid religious tensions between communities in the area.

Australia has some of the strictest gun and weapons laws in the world, but following the attacks there have been calls for greater public security and giving security guards protective equipment.

tj/wd (AP, Reuters, AFP)