Fatal stabbing at Australian mosque

The scene at the mosque in Dallas

Police have charged a 22-year-old man with the stabbing death of an elderly man at a mosque in Dallas in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs.

Erol Elmas, from Broadmeadows, faced an out-of-sessions court hearing on Thursday night at the St Kilda Road police centre. He was charged with one count of murder.

A Glenroy man aged in his 70s was fatally stabbed when he and two other men tried to stop Mr Elmas from entering the Turkish Islamic and Cultural Centre shortly before 11am on Thursday, police allege.

Forty worshippers witnessed the attack, which left two others injured. A Craigieburn man, aged in his 70s, suffered knife wounds to his upper body and was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition. The third victim, from Mickleham, also aged in his 70s, was taken to the Northern Hospital in a stable condition.

Mr Elmas was remanded in custody and will face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Police said 12 officers were needed to restrain and arrest Mr Elmas, who was under police guard at St Vincent’s Hospital, but was taken into custody on Thursday night.

Dallas resident Aycse was in the mosque for her twice-weekly scripture studies class when the violent scenes unfolded.

She said she heard a fight erupt near the front entrance of the mosque, followed by screams.

”I started shaking,” she said. ”There were four classes going on in there. And when we went outside, there was blood on one of the cars.”

Some witnesses said people had locked themselves in rooms within the mosque.

Senior Sergeant Bailey said it was too early to say what motivated the attack. He said all three victims and the offender were Turkish.

Mr Elmas, who was known to the community, had attended the mosque on Tuesday, he said.

Dozens of witnesses, mainly elderly Turkish women, were left shaken by the ”horrific attack”.

Mohammed Tabbaa, a spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria, said community members were shocked by the incident. ”I don’t think something like this has ever happened before,” he said.

Mr Tabbaa said the mosque was located in a close-knit community, which included a number of families.

”We really express our condolences and sympathies with the community and victims and their families and reiterate if there’s any support we can offer to them, get in touch with us,” he said.

Resident Yunus Saglam, who attends the mosque and knew the dead man, said he was a gentleman and had been trying to help.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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