Australian boy killed by police was in deradicalization program since causing school explosion

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by police after stabbing a man in the Australian west coast city of Perth had been engaged in a deradicalization program since he detonated a homemade explosive device in a school toilet block two years ago, police said on Tuesday.

The boy had injured a man with a kitchen knife in a hardware store parking lot on Saturday night before police killed him with a single shot. The boy had told associates in a text message: “I am going on the path of jihad tonight for the sake of Allah.”

It was the third high-profile knife crime to shock Australia in recent weeks after two Assyrian Orthodox clerics were injured in a Sydney church and a Sydney shopping mall rampage in which six people were killed and another dozen were wounded.

Western Australia Police Commissioner Col Blanch said the boy killed in Perth had been a voluntary participant of the federally funded Countering Violent Extremism program since 2022 when he caused an explosion at a toilet at the Rossmoyne Senior High School, which he attended. The boy had received treatment for mental health issues as well as extremist inclinations.

“To be in a CVE program automatically says that we have concerns about his behavior and his thinking,” Blanch told Perth Radio 6PR.

“This is really important and it is highly successful but, sadly, it’s not perfect,” Blanch added.

Social media video of the noise and flash of an explosion in a toilet and of boys running from the scene has been published by news media outlets in recent days.

The state education department said no one was injured and no damage was caused by the explosion. All proper protocols were followed with the then 14-year-old student where there were concerns about extremism, a department statement said.

Police investigated the explosion, but the boy wasn’t charged, authorities said.

Police maintained a high-visibility presence around the school on Tuesday to reassure the community after social media warned parents that a student had threatened more violence, Blanch said.

The warning came from a hacked social media account, Blanch said.

He urged the school community to contact police with any concerns rather sharing those concerns through social media.

“Sending messages around and whipping up people’s anxiety at a time of significant stress will not help anyone,” Blanch said.

Western Australia police but had found no links between the Perth boy and an alleged network of teen extremists in the east coast city of Sydney.

The stabbings of a bishop and priest in a Sydney church on April 15 led to a 16-year-old boy being charged with committing a terrorist act.

In the subsequent investigation, six more teenagers were charged with terror-related offenses.

Police alleged all seven were part of a network that “adhered to a religiously motivated, violent extremist ideology.”

Some Muslim leaders have criticized Australian police for declaring the church stabbing a terrorist act but not a rampage two days earlier in a Sydney shopping mall in which six people were killed and a dozen wounded.

The 40-year-old attacker, who was shot dead by police, had a history of schizophrenia and most of the victims he targeted were women. Police have yet to reveal the man’s motive.

Blanch said the quick responses by three police officers in the Perth incident had saved lives.

“We have seen what someone with a knife can do in a populated area,” Blanch said, referring to the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping mall rampage on April 13.

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