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Police in Australia identify the Sydney stabbing attacker who killed 6 people

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SYDNEY -

Police identified Sunday the assailant who stabbed and killed six people at a busy Sydney shopping centre before a police officer fatally shot him.

New South Wales Police said that Joel Cauchi, 40, was responsible for the Saturday afternoon attack at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction, in the city’s eastern suburbs and not far from the world-famous Bondi Beach.

NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Anthony Cooke told reporters at a media conference on Sunday that Cauchi suffered from yet unspecified mental health issues and police investigators weren’t treating the attack as terrorism-related.

“We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved,” Cooke said.

“There is still, to this point ... no information we have received, no evidence we have recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation - ideology or otherwise,” he added.

The attack at the shopping mall, one of the country’s busiest and which was a hub of activity on a particularly warm fall afternoon, began around 3:10 p.m. and police were swiftly called.

Six people — five women and one man, aged between 20 and 55 — were killed in the attack. Another 12 were injured and remain in hospital, including a nine-month-old child whose mother was killed in the attack.

The male victim was a security guard at the shopping centre and was later identified as 30-year-old Faraz Tahir from Pakistan.

According to a written statement Sunday from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia, Faraz had been in Australia for a less than a year and was a “cherished member of our community.”

Video footage taken by a witness showed many people fleeing as a knife-wielding Cauchi ran erratically through the shopping mall and lunging at people.

“When I took my footage it, was about 15 seconds maybe before he was shot by the police officer and he’d already killed a number of people at that point but we didn’t know and we had no idea what was going on,” said Rohan Anderson, who had entered the shopping center just moments before the attack. "We just saw a person on the level below us, with a knife, running around and you just sit in disbelief that this is happening in Australia, in Bondi,” he said.

Other footage showed a man confronting the attacker on an escalator in the shopping centre by holding what appeared to be a metal pole.

Inspector Amy Scott, who was the first emergency responder on the scene, shot and killed Cauchi.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the officer was “certainly a hero” whose actions had saved many more lives.

“The wonderful inspector who ran into danger by herself and removed the threat that was there to others, without thinking about the risks to herself,” he said.

“We also see the footage of ordinary Australians putting themselves in harm’s way in order to help their fellow citizens. That bravery was quite extraordinary that we saw yesterday,” he added.

In a written statement later Sunday, Cauchi’s family said they were devastated by Saturday’s events and they had “no issue” with Scott shooting their son, saying "she was only doing her job to protect others”.

“Joel’s actions were truly horrific, and we are still trying to comprehend what has happened,” the statement read. “He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.”

Throughout Sunday, people placed a large number of floral tributes for the victims outside the now-shuttered shopping centre. Police say it will remain an active crime scene for days.

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