Sydney church stabbing that left 4 including bishop hurt deemed 'terrorist' act, sparked riot

A mass stabbing at an Assyrian church in Sydney that left four people injured including its bishop was an act of terrorism, Australian police announced Tuesday morning.

The knife-attack took place Monday about 7 p.m. local time at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church in the city suburb of Wakeley, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb said during a press conference.

The incident marked the second mass-stabbing in Sydney in less than 72 hours, proceeded a riot in which police said officers were injured and left the local community on edge.

"After consideration of all the material, I declared it was a terrorist incident," Webb said during the press conference, adding a counterterror investigation team was being formed to investigate the crime.


Mass attacks in Australia are rare and the country has strict gun laws. For example, it is illegal to “intentionally” import firearms without approval there. Violators face up to 10 years in prison.

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During Monday's press conference, police reported that church Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was stabbed when a teenager lunged at him with a knife. Viral video shows the teen, donning a black sweatshirt, approach the leader who is behind a pupil and attack him.

Premier of New South Wales Chris Minns (C), NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb (L) and Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan speak during a press conference on April 16, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. Hundreds clashed with police in western Sydney after an Orthodox Christian bishop was allegedly stabbed at the alter at Mar Mari Emmanuel at Assyrian church in Wakeley.

Webb said police arrested the teen at the scene in connection to the stabbings which left four people with non life-threatening injuries. As of Tuesday the boy had not been publicly identified.

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Police attacked by crowd during riot outside church following stabbing

As police responded to help the injured including the suspect, Webb said, a crowd formed outside the church and began to turn on police, using bricks, concrete and missiles to assault them.

Several officers were injured and taken to hospitals overnight, Webb said, 20 police vehicles were damaged and 10 were destroyed by rioters.

"That is unacceptable," Webb said. "Police attended the incident in Wakeley last night to assist that community... and the crowd turned on police."

Those involved in the riot can expect to be prosecuted and expect "a knock at the door." Webb said. "We will find you and we will come and arrest you."

Webb said the agency will increase police presence across the city.

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Sydney mall stabbing took place less than three days earlier

Three days earlier, police fatally shot a man identified by police as 40-year-old Joel Cauchi, after he fatally stabbed six people at a busy shopping mall in Sydney's beachside suburb of Bondi.

Reuters reported the attacker's father said Cauchi suffered a history of mental illness and "frustrations with women."

"He wanted a girlfriend and he has no social skills and he was frustrated out of his brain," Cauchi's father said in comments reported by The Australian.

On Sunday, Webb said authorities did not believe the mall attack was terrorism related and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said officials were investigating the killer's motive.

Webb said it appeared the offender focused on women and avoided the men saying, "The videos speak for themselves."

Five of six people killed were women and eight, including a 9-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, officials said. Most of the 12 injured, Webb confirmed, were also women.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sydney church stabbing was a 'terrorist incident,' police say