Representational image of ISIS attackers. (Photo: AP)

Islamic State Says Responsible for Melbourne Hostage-Taking

(Bloomberg) -- Islamic State claimed responsibility for a hostage-taking in the Australian city of Melbourne that left a gunman and another person dead and three police officers injured.

Following a standoff at an apartment building, officers shot dead 29-year-old Yacqub Khayre on Monday evening after he came out and fired a sawn-off shotgun at police. He captured a woman he’d arranged to meet from an escort agency and is believed by police to have killed the building receptionist.

Officers are investigating whether Khayre shot the man and tied up the woman, a 36-year-old Colombian national, in order to lure police into a shootout. One officer was shot in the face, though the injuries aren’t life-threatening, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters on Tuesday.

“A soldier of Islamic State carried out the attack in Melbourne, Australia in response to the calls for targeting the citizens of the coalition states,” the group’s Amaq news agency said in a statement. The group has claimed responsibility for a wave of deadly incidents in the U.K., including the weekend attack in London that left seven people dead and almost 50 injured.

Khayre had been known to security forces for almost a decade and had been cleared of involvement in a plot to attack an army barracks in Sydney in 2009. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described yesterday’s incident in the southeastern suburb of Brighton as a “terrorist attack” that underlined the need for constant vigilance in the face of Islamist extremism.

Channel Seven reported that a man claiming to be the hostage-taker called its newsroom during the incident and said: “This is for IS, this is for al-Qaeda.” Police are treating the case as a terrorist incident because of Khayre’s comments to Channel Seven and his history, Deputy Commissioner Patton said.

While the investigation is in its early stages, police aren’t looking for anyone else in relation to the attack and there’s no intelligence to suggest there’s an increased threat to the public, Patton said. Victoria state’s chief commissioner of police, Graham Ashton, earlier noted that Islamic State had a record of claiming responsibility for attacks “at the drop of a hat.”

Khayre had a long criminal history and was on parole after being released from prison late last year, according to police. Turnbull described the incident as a “shocking and cowardly crime” and questioned why a man with a history of violence had been released on parole.

According to police, the building receptionist killed in the attack was an Australian of Chinese birth who was recently married with a child.

Australia is a key ally of the U.S. and is flying combat missions against Islamic State in Syria. Compared with nations such as the U.K. and France, it has been relatively free of terrorist incidents. In December 2014, two hostages and a gunman who’d claimed allegiance to Islamic State died after a siege in a Sydney cafe.