Sydney -- Australian police said a knife-wielding man yelling "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," attempted to stab several people in downtown Sydney on Tuesday before being arrested. At least one woman was brought to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after the attack, and another was found dead in a nearby residence.
Police said later that "all the evidence points to" a man with mental health issues lashing out, but they would not rule out any potential motives as the investigation was still at an early stage. Given the information they had, they said the incident was not being classed as terrorism and that the suspect was believed to have acted alone.
Witnesses said the man, wielding a long knife, tried to stab multiple people near a busy intersection. New South Wales state police said in a statement that the man was caught and the woman was in stable condition.
Not far away, the body of a woman, an acquaintance of the detained suspect and of a similar age to the 21-year-old suspect, was found in a home.
A witness told reporters the man screamed comments about religion before yelling to police that he wanted to be shot. Police said he used the Arabic phrase "Allahu akbar." However, police later said the man also had in his possession a thumbnail USB drive containing information related to recent mass shooting attacks carried out by white supremacists.
Asked by a reporter whether the conflicting religious references suggested to him a mental health problem at the root of the crime, New South Wales Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said, "certainly all the evidence points to that" at this stage.
The incident brought the central business district of Australia's biggest city to an early afternoon standstill.
Videos posted on social media showed several members of the public, including tourists from England, chasing the armed man through the streets and eventually pinning him to the ground with chairs and a milk crate. They held him in place until police officers arrived and took him into custody.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised members of the public who helped subdue the suspect during the attack.
Reuters quotes Police Superintendent Gavin Wood as telling reporters in Sydney the woman was stabbed in the back but her wounds weren't life-threatening and that the attack on her seemed to be unprovoked.