Australian police say a French man who allegedly killed a UK woman in the state of Queensland had no apparent extremist motive. The man had shouted "God is greatest" in Arabic during his attack.
Australian police said Thursday they were looking into whether a French suspect had a romantic obsession with a British woman whom he allegedly stabbed to death at a northeast Australia hostel, saying there was no indication that the attack was motivated by extremism
Twenty-nine-year-old Smail Ayad was charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, once count of serious animal cruelty and 12 counts of serious assault.
He is accused of killing Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, by stabbing her with a knife a number of times at the hostel in Home Hill, in the north of Queensland. A 30-year-old British man was also in a critical condition after also coming under attack, police said, while another local man was slightly injured. Ayad is also accused of killing a dog.
Police said they were investigating whether Ayad had been rejected by Ayliffe-Chung before the alleged attack.
"That is one of the lines of inquiry that we are conducting. There is certainly, at this stage, no indicaton that - certainly from Mia's point of view - that there was any sort of romantic connection, " said Queensland Police Detective Superinendent Ray Rohweder.
'No evidence of radical or political motive'
Although police say Ayad shouted "Allahu akbar" - an Arabic phrase meaning "God is greatest" - during the attack and while being arrested, according to Rohweder there was no evidence that any extremist ideology was involved.
"There is absolutely no indication of any form of radicalization or any political motive in this matter," he said.
Witnesses told police that Ayad had been acting out of character in the run-up to the attack, which took place on Tuesday night in front of dozens of backpackers. Police say they believe he had consumed cannabis, but Rohweder said there was no evidence of his having taken alcohol or stronger drugs.
Rohweder said Ayad had become "extremely violent" during transport from a hospital, where he received treatment for light injuries, to the police station in the city of Townsville. Officers received cuts and abraisions, and one was bitten in the leg, he said.
Call for calm
Queensland's Police Minister Bill Byrne was quick to move to calm any inflammatory rhetoric amid speculation that the attacks were religiously motivated.
Following reports that newly elected senator and anti-immigration advocate Pauline Hanson had said the incident "could well be the first Islamic terrorist attack in Queensland," Byrne warned against overheated reactions.
"There will be those that seek to exploit this and I believe they will be unhelpful," Byrne was quoted by the "Brisbane Times" as saying. "What is required here is cool, calm, thoughtful consideration."
Australia's terror threat alert level has been set at high since Septermber 2014 amid growing fears of extremism and home-grown radicalization. Several people have been arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks, and the government has said some 150 Australians have been recruited to fight with jihadist group "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq.
tj/rc (AP, AFP)