Teenager is charged with terrorism offenses in stabbings of bishop and priest at Sydney church

SYDNEY (AP) — A 16-year-old boy accused of stabbing two Christian clerics during a Sydney church service has been charged by police with terrorism offenses.

Authorities said the stabbing was declared a terrorist act because of the teenager’s suspected religious motivation and that the boy traveled up to 90 minutes from his home to the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s western suburbs.

The teen spoke in Arabic about the Prophet Muhammad being insulted after he stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel and the Rev. Isaac Royel during Monday night’s Assyrian Orthodox service. He was later overpowered by parishioners, sustaining severe hand injuries.

“Yesterday investigators attended a medical facility to interview the alleged offender where he was charged with committing a terrorist act,” said Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw at a press conference Friday in Sydney. The offense carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life.

The matter was heard at a Sydney children’s court on Friday. The juvenile, who is not being named, did not appear via video link from his hospital bed and did not apply for bail at the brief hearing.

The teen has a history of knife-related offenses and had seen three psychologists and a school counselor, and had an appointment to see a psychiatrist, his lawyer said during Friday’s court hearing.

The boy’s family had previously said the 16-year-old might have “anger management and behavioral issues” and a “short fuse,” but had shown no signs of being radicalized.

The 16-year-old’s lawyer, Greg Scragg, said the boy had a “long history of behavior” consistent with a mental illness or intellectual disability.

The magistrate made a recommendation for the boy to have a mental health assessment while in custody. He will enter remand custody at a children’s detention center once released from the hospital, until his next court hearing on June 14.

A crowd of up to 600 people converged on the church after the attack, some demanding that police hand over the boy. Hours of rioting led to 51 police officers being injured. Sydney mosques also received firebomb threats.

The bishop released an audio statement Thursday saying that he was “doing fine, recovering very quickly” and that he forgave his attacker. He also used his statement to call for calm after the attack, which was Australia’s second high-profile knife attack in a week, after a man stabbed six people to death at a busy Sydney shopping center Saturday before he was fatally shot.

Regarding the church attack, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “Clearly this was a terrorism event,” and it had been disappointing to see the riots that followed.

“The response as well, I must say, as a Sydneysider, was very disappointing with police being attacked, they should be treated with respect at all times,” Albanese told radio station 3AW on Friday. “Our police do extraordinary work in order to keep us safe and they shouldn’t have been subject to the attacks that happened on that evening. And there have been charges done because of that as well.”

Police say they are continuing to hunt for as many as 50 people involved in the riot and expect to make more arrests in the coming days.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said extra police had been deployed to that part of western Sydney as part of a high-visibility operation “for as long as needed to reassure the community we are there to keep them safe.”


Smith reported from Newcastle, Australia.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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