Hunt for 50 Rioters, One Charged, Over Church Stabbing in Western Sydney

The attack was declared a terrorist act because of the teen’s possible religious motivation, but he is yet to be charged over the incident.
Hunt for 50 Rioters, One Charged, Over Church Stabbing in Western Sydney
Locals gather with police to guard the perimeter of the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney's western suburb of Wakeley on April 15, 2024, after several people were stabbed in the church premises. Australian police arrested a man after several people were stabbed at a church in Sydney on April 15 and emergency services said four people were being treated for non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Investigators are yet to speak with a teen who allegedly stabbed a bishop but police are zeroing in on as many as 50 people involved in a violent riot after the incident.

Stabbing victim, Assyrian church bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, spoke publicly for the first time after the alleged terror attack, saying he forgives his accused assailant.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the community wanted answers about the 16-year-old’s motivations, but detectives were yet to speak with him as he recovered under guard in hospital on April 18.

Bishop Emmanuel was stabbed during a live-streamed sermon at Christ the Good Shepherd Church at Wakeley on Monday night (April 15).

The attack was declared a terrorist act because of the teen’s possible religious motivation, but he is yet to be charged over the incident.

Dozens of police were injured, their cars vandalised and a cohort of officers and paramedics were forced to shelter inside the place of worship.

Dani Mansour, from Doonside, was the first person arrested and charged over the public-disorder incident.

Police told Mansour as he was arrested “the commissioner of police told you we were coming. We are here”.

Appearing in court on April 18, the 19-year-old said he made a mistake but he was “pissed off” at officers who had hurt people outside the church.

Mansour allegedly filmed himself kicking two police cars during the riot before uploading the footage to Instagram.

Speaking to reporters outside Blacktown police station on April 18, he said he had “just done one [police car]”.

Ms. Webb said the man was not a member of the church community.

“[What] has been shown is that people just came along to participate in a riot and that’s disgraceful and disgusting,” she said.

As many as 50 people were wanted for questioning over the unrest, including several who disguised themselves and police were looking for public help to identify, Ms. Webb said.

In an audio message released by the church earlier on April 18, the bishop said he was doing fine and recovering quickly, while calling on followers to obey the law following the riot.

“I need you to act Christ-like, the lord Jesus never taught us to fight,” he said.

Bishop Emmanuel said he forgave the teen allegedly responsible for the stabbing, as well as “whoever sent [him] to do this”.

“I forgive whoever has done this act, I say to him, ‘you’re my son, I love you, and I will always pray for you’,” he said.

Police have seized the boy’s devices and are investigating whether he could have become radicalised in the lead-up to the attack.

Prominent Lebanese Muslim community leader Jamal Rifi said the teenager’s mother did not believe he was radicalised online, saying the 16-year-old regretted the incident.

“He kept on apologising to his mum and saying sorry and all that sort of thing,” Mr. Rifi told Sydney radio 2GB.

Bishop Emmanuel’s call for calm comes after western Sydney religious leaders also tried to quell community tensions after the attack.

Police declared a terrorist act because the teenager allegedly made comments in Arabic that referred to insults against “my prophet” before stabbing the bishop, who had previously publicly criticised Islam and other religions.

An extra 70 additional officers have been deployed across the region to conduct high-visibility patrols at places of worship.

Another 42 officers have been assigned to investigate the riot, during which some of the crowd tried to gain access to the alleged attacker while he was being held inside the church.

Investigators are collating evidence including mobile phone and CCTV vision to identify those involved.

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
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