An attacker who stabbed a man to death has died after being shot by police in a terrorist incident on a central Melbourne street.
The knifeman was shot as he tried to stab two officers after he had stabbed three people in busy Bourke Street on Friday afternoon and later died in Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“We are treating this as a terrorism incident,” Victorian police chief commissioner Graham Ashton said on Friday night.
“We now know a bit more about the identity of that person. Initially that person didn’t have any identification on them but we believe we now have confirmation of the identity of that person.”
Mr Ashton said the Counter-Terrorism unit is investigating and he cannot give any details about the attacker’s identity.
But he said the man came to Australia from Somalia in the 1990s and was known to police.
Witnesses said the attacker stabbed the victim, believed to be aged in his 60s, in the face.
A white sheet covered the victim as he lay on Bourke Street.
“Three people have been stabbed, unfortunately one is deceased at the scene, two other victims are currently in hospital,” police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters at the scene.
One witness said the man was stabbed in the face and desperate efforts were made to save him.
“Because he was on his stomach, they turned him over to see if he’s alright, he was still alive,” nearby KFC worker Markel Villasin told AAP.
“He was breathing and he was bleeding out.”
Footage from the scene shows a man earlier swinging a knife at two uniformed officers near a burning car before he was shot.
“(Officers) were confronted by a male brandishing a knife and threatening them,” Supt Clayton said.
Police are not looking for anyone else in relation to the events.
Mr Villasin said bystanders were screaming at police to shoot the knifeman.
“They were around him trying to take the knife out of his hand – I’m pretty sure it was a kitchen knife,” he said.
“I don’t know what the police were doing, for a good two to three minutes they were trying to grab him, tackle him down when a lot of people were screaming … ‘just f***ing shoot him, shoot him’.”
Police initially responded to reports of a vehicle on fire at the corner of Bourke and Swanston streets. The dual cab Rodeo ute was quickly extinguished.
Another bystander told AAP he was walking on Swanston Street when he heard an explosion.
The next thing he saw was a “big dude punching into the police car”.
The witness said the assailant was dressed in Islamic clothing and of African appearance and about six foot four inches tall.
“The cops were trying to hit him with batons and he wasn’t going down,” he said.
Two civilians became involved as well as two police, trying to stop the man from his attack.
Streets are cordoned off and people are asked to avoid the area.
Police want to hear from people who witnessed the event or captured footage as they piece together what happened.