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In Australia, SUV Mows Down Pedestrians In 'Deliberate Act'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. We want to turn now to a situation that has been unfolding this morning in Australia.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMERGENCY SIRENS AND CHATTER)

GREENE: That's the sound of a panicked situation in Melbourne today after a vehicle drove - well, plowed into a crowd of people, injuring more than a dozen of them. Community leaders vowed that they would not let this incident change their way of life. Here's the Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PREMIER DANIEL ANDREWS: This is horrific. It's evil. We are not defined by these sorts of incidents. I'm confident that we will go about our business and we will celebrate Christmas. We will be at the Boxing Day Test and the Carols by Candlelight, and we will spend what should be a joyous time with people that we love.

GREENE: Let's turn now to Danny Tran. He's a reporter for ABC News of Australia. He's on the line from Melbourne. Hi, Danny.

DANNY TRAN: Good day there.

GREENE: So what exactly happened here?

TRAN: Earlier this afternoon, a white four-wheel drive, an SUV, drove through pedestrians near Flinders Street Station, which is a major station in Melbourne, the state of Victoria, before crashing into a tram stop. Fourteen people were hurt. Police arrested two men, including the driver, and they are alleging that it was a deliberate act.

GREENE: So deliberate act - I know we always talk about, you know, whether or not something constitutes an act of terrorism and using that language. Are officials commenting on that at this point?

TRAN: Look, police were quite emphatic about this point, that at this stage, the man who was the driver and another man who was arrested don't appear to have any connections with any extremism or any history of extremism. In fact, we had some fresh details about the driver. So the driver is a man of Afghan descent. He's an Australian citizen has a history of mental illness and is on a mental health plan. And that's a new piece of information that we didn't have before. But at this stage, both men, there is no connection to extremism at this point.

GREENE: OK. So no connection known to police to extremism, but they do believe this was a deliberate act targeting - targeting whom? I mean, the Premier there said that he hopes people will celebrate Christmas and go on with their lives. Was this targeting people who were out and doing Christmas shopping and getting ready for the holidays?

TRAN: Look, I mean, police haven't touched on the motivations of the individual who was driving the car. But what we do - and what would be apparent to someone looking on this situation is that people who were out for Christmas shopping may have been a consideration, may have been a motivation because it is only days before Christmas here in Melbourne. Around that area, around that thoroughfare, it's a way that people are able get to the shops. And, look, it must be something police are looking at.

GREENE: And I mentioned it looks at this point like more than a dozen people were injured. Do we know who they are?

TRAN: At this stage, from what place among the injured, a preschool-age child with a head injury. The child has been taken to the Royal Children's Hospital but does not appear to be in a critical condition. But some people are, including - among the people receiving treatment are the driver of the car but also the off-duty police sergeant who was on the scene within 15 seconds and whose actions have been described by the acting chief commissioner here and by the premier as heroic.

GREENE: All right. This is a story we're going to be following throughout the day. Again, a vehicle plowing into a crowd of people during the holiday shopping season in Melbourne, Australia. At least a dozen people injured. The police say this was a deliberate act but they do not believe that there were any ties to extremism. Danny Tran is a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Danny, thanks.

TRAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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