Australia counterterrorism force arrests 7 teenagers following Sydney bishop stabbing

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An Australian counterterrorism force announced the arrests Wednesday of seven male teenagers who reportedly have links to a 16-year-old charged with stabbing an Assyrian church bishop during a livestreamed mass outside of Sydney. 

Police say the teens, who are associates of the young attacker who targeted bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on April 15 at the Assyrian Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, pose an “unacceptable risk” to society and allegedly are involved in a religiously motivated extremist ideology, according to Reuters. 

“I can assure the community there is no ongoing threat to the community, and the action we have taken today has mitigated any risk of future or further harm,” the news agency quoted New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson as saying. 

The 16-year-old who has been detained in the wake of the stabbing is now facing a terrorism charge. 

SYDNEY CHURCH BISHOP SAYS HE FORGIVES ATTACKER 

bishop stabbed in church

An attacker approaches Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during a church service at Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley, Sydney, Australia on Monday, April 15. (Christ The Good Shepherd Church / Reuters)

“Seven people have been arrested after 13 warrants were executed in Sydney and Goulburn today, as the Joint Counter Terrorism Team Sydney continues to investigate an alleged stabbing at a Wakeley church,” NSW Police said in a statement Wednesday. 

“About 11.15am today, investigators executed 13 search warrants across a number of suburbs in Sydney including Bankstown, Prestons, Casula, Lurnea, Rydalmere, Greenacre, Strathfield, Chester Hill, and Punchbowl, as well as a premises in Goulburn,” police added. “The operation involved more than 400 police.” 

Officials say seven juvenile males were arrested in the operation and another five people, including two adult males, are being questioned. 

“A number of items have also been seized as a result of today’s activity, including a significant amount of electronic material. Operational activity remains ongoing,” NSW Police also said. 

AUSTRALIA SAYS BISHOP, PRIEST’S CHURCH STABBING WAS A ‘TERRORIST INCIDENT’ 

Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel

Senior Parish Priest Fr. Isaac Royel, left, and Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel during the 2023 Holy Resurrection Feast services, in Sydney, Australia. Emmanuel said following the stabbing that he forgives the attacker. (AAP Image/Supplied by Christ The Good Shepherd Church via REUTERS)

Authorities previously have described the assault on the bishop as a “terrorist incident. 

“I am doing fine, recovering very quickly… there is no need to be worried or concerned,” Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel later said in an audio message posted on social media, his first public comments since the attack. “I forgive whoever has done this act… I will always pray for you and whoever sent you to do this, I forgive them as well.” 

Sydney-area church police response

Police work the scene following the stabbing at Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley. (Reuters/Lewis Jackson)

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Bishop Emmanuel, who was injured in the attack, is the leader of a conservative sect of the Assyrian Orthodox faith. He has a strong social media following and is outspoken on a range of issues, including the war in Gaza and COVID-19 restrictions, according to Reuters. 

Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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