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New analysis, shared exclusively with Sky News, reveals 180 separate incidents of settlements in Sudan being set on fire, with 108 villages, towns and cities affected since the start of the war.

More than a quarter (27%) of the 108 settlements where burnings have been verified by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) have been targeted more than once since April 2023.

On 15 April, 2023, violent clashes erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Many of these fires have been attributed to the RSF and local level disputes.

The fires are another element of a war that has resulted in the forced displacement of millions of people and human rights abuses including more than 100 incidents of sexual violence observed by the UN.

Sir Nicholas Kay, a former British ambassador to Sudan, told Sky News the repeated fires may be a “deliberate attempt to… instil a great level of fear and extreme violence to subdue and remove the population”, and “a determined consistent effort to ensure people leave and don’t come back ever”.

US-Africa policy expert Cameron Hudson said the current RSF activity in Darfur is “ethnic cleansing”, including war crimes “that some people will call genocide” – reminiscent of the atrocities of 2003-05.

One Sudanese human rights worker who spoke anonymously to Sky News said he had been specifically targeted in an assassination attempt for his work doing things like providing water to people whose water sources had been burned and destroyed.

MAP

The Darfur region has experienced the most significant impact from the fires, with the majority of incidents taking place in the West Darfur state.

The highest number of fires took place in in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, along with the village of Misterei.

MAP

In one instance between 29 May and 2 June 2023, multiple fires were detected in Misterei, mainly inhabited by ethnic Masalit people, who have faced extensive violence from the RSF and allied Arab militias throughout the war.

Humans Rights Watch reported that the town came under attack on the morning of 28 May, when RSF and Arab militias allegedly launched an assault on the town.

Many were also injured with gunshot wounds and fled to Chad.

Satellite imagery of the town from 2 June shows both burn marks and active fires.

Misterei Sat Image
Image:
Pic: Planet Labs PBC and Centre for Information Resilience

In the middle of the attack on Misterei, a video was recorded in the centre of town, in which burning and burned down houses are shown. The person filming accuses the Nuba people of killing and slaughtering and goes on to say “as you condemn, you will be condemned”, which roughly translates as “what goes around comes around”.

The video was shared in a RSF WhatsApp group and was located to the period between 30 May and 1 June 2023.

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Violence takes place in Misterei, Sudan

There was further fire damage in Misterei following a pattern of what appears to be strategic burnings of residential areas, where the town was burned in intervals of multiple days, between 6 October 2023 and 1 March 2024.

Between 11 and 31 October 2023, roughly 3,750 square metres (more than 60% of the town) was burnt in this manner.

Misterei

“What the RSF is doing has felt very similar to what they did in a previous generation as the Janjaweed [a Sudanese Arab militia group that the RSF grew out of], in terms of who they’re targeting and how they are targeting them, ” explained Cameron Hudson, Senior Associate for the Africa Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“One of the things we assessed at the time was that they were doing things like burning villages, poisoning water sources or destroying livestock to prevent people from ever returning.

“So, if they are doing that again, which is what this sounds like, then that is a very similar tactic to what we have seen before.

“There’s a profit motive here because there they are looting, they are taking valuables,” added Mr Hudson, who also served as the chief of staff to successive U.S. presidential special envoys for Sudan during the period of South Sudan’s separation from Sudan (2011) and the Darfur genocide (2003-2005).

As in Misterei, many of the burnings disproportionately affect the Masalit and other minority communities.

On 9 June 2023, a video was shared on X showing an RSF soldier outside the residence of the Sultan of the Masalit in El Geneina, making statements targeting the Masalit.

He says, “Dar [the house of] Masalit, only Arab. “Allah Akbar [x4].. Sultan Dar Masalit? .. There’s no more Dar Masalit, Dar Arab only.”

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Fighter speaks against the Masalit

CIR geolocated the footage to the same day as potential related footage showing burning property and dead bodies in the streets only one block away from the Sultan’s residence.

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Violence in Sudan

Mr Hudson said: “Obviously, there has been ethnic cleansing by the RSF in Darfur going on recently, going on presently. There have been obviously war crimes committed and some people will call that genocide because it is targeting African tribal minorities in Darfur, so that is all reminiscent of an earlier period.”

Tribal conflicts

While the cases of El Geneina and Misterei show some of the violence and hatred incited by the RSF and its supporters, village fires have also been attributed to alleged local-level and inter-communal conflict.

As we saw in the violence 20 years ago, there is a lot of very local level score settling and fighting going on between nomads and pastoralists between communities that have been in tension for a very long time and so within the context of this larger conflict, there is also a very local level conflict going on.

“I think the violence in Darfur is much more about local level, political, tribal and economic dynamics,” said Mr Hudson.

CIR also collected and verified multiple videos related to alleged clashes between Bani Halba and Al Salamat tribes in August and September 2023 in the Kubum and Mukjar localities, near the border of South and Central Darfur.

Various fighters on both sides appear in RSF uniforms.

Markundi, a town about 20 kilometres south from Kubum and inhabited largely by the Bani Halba, was attacked by what appears to be Al Salamat fighters on 7 September or 8 September.

Footage recorded by the Al Salamat people shows men in RSF uniforms surrounded by burning dwellings in an area nearby the Markundi market.

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A video shows the aftermath of tribal violence in Kubum

Continuing violence and displacement in Sudan

The findings add to atrocities already observed by the UN, including more than 100 incidents of sexual violence.

“It’s a messy war because there are many, many different factors. I heard so many Sudanese complaining and lamenting the fact that mercenaries from across the Sahel were fighting on the side of the RSF and were there essentially just to loot and unfortunately rape, in Khartoum in particular but in other parts of Sudan as well,” said Sir Nicholas Kay, former UK ambassador to Sudan, now Senior Advisor at Crisis Management Initiative.

More than 8.4 million people have been forcibly displaced since the start of the conflict in April 2023, equivalent to one in six people in Sudan.

“What we’ve also seen is that it’s not just settlements being targeted, but there is also frequent fires as at IDP camps, which would result in double displacement and people having to leave again because the areas that they’ve finally found refuge also turn out to be unsafe or are left unliveable,” said Anouk Theunissen, team leader for the Sudan Witness project at CIR.

More than 6.5 million are displaced within the country, with others fleeing to neighbours like Chad, South Sudan and Egypt.

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This includes one human rights worker, Ibrahim (not his real name), who spoke with Sky News but requested to remain anonymous. He fled to Chad in June 2023 but witnessed burnings before he left.

“I was monitoring all kinds of violations committed by all parties of the conflict. I also provided potable water to citizens after the destruction and burning most of the water sources. These things made part of the conflict group target me. I survived an assassination attempt and the office was looted and burned.

“Secondly, because of my colour or race, the El Geneina War took on an ethnic manner, as people were killed on the basis of race or colour, especially after the killing of Wali Khamis and the defeat of the Masalit groups, where the Janjaweed took over the entire city and practiced the worst types of killing and looting.

“Because of all of that, I fled to Chad with great difficulty. I lost my homeland and my home, as it was completely looted and burned. I lost my job. I lost a number of my family members who have been killed, and I lost all that I have, money, documents, and other things.”

Despite the great scale of damage and humanitarian catastrophe, Sir Nicolas holds hope that people like Ibrahim may be able to return one day.

“I believe that those communities [targeted in the Darfur Genocide] proved to be resilient and as the conflict was ending and some people were being held to account for further violence and with the presence of the UN and African Union peacekeeping mission on the ground, communities did return, re-establish and consolidate themselves.

“So it’s happened before and again, it may happen after this round of violence and bloodletting. It would require, clearly, a determination by the international community and institutions to hold people to account but it would also require a future government of Sudan to also take seriously its responsibility to protect civilians and provide an environment in which all communities can live together.”


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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Joe Biden reaffirms US ‘ironclad’ support of Israel after Iran missile and drone attacks

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Joe Biden reaffirms US 'ironclad' support of Israel after Iran missile and drone attacks

Joe Biden has reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles in an “unprecedented” attack.

With additional launches in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, over 300 drones and missiles, including 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles, were fired at Israel.

RAF planes were involved in the defence of Israel on Saturday evening in a support capacity, Sky News understands, while US planes reportedly downed Iranian drones over northern Syria.

Follow live updates of Iran’s attack on Israel

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency war cabinet to discuss the situation late on Saturday night, while, in Washington, US President Joe Biden also held an emergency meeting with top security officials.

Benjamin Netanyahu with his war cabinet on Saturday. Pic: Israeli PM's office
Image:
Benjamin Netanyahu with his war cabinet on Saturday. Pic: Israeli PM’s office

In a statement following the meeting, Mr Biden reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad” commitment to “Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies”.

Across Israel, the military sounded sirens in multiple locations in southern areas last night as well as in parts of the occupied West Bank, an alert app showed.

A matter of hours after the attack from Iran, Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel – who responded with their own launches.

Sky News international correspondent Alex Rossi, in Jerusalem, said he had heard “explosions” and seen “what look like air defence interception systems”.

Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel in Jerusalem
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Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel in Jerusalem

Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky in Jerusalem
Image:
Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky in Jerusalem

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it was responding to an “attack on the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus” on 1 April.

Two generals and seven members of the IRGC were killed in the strike, which Tehran blamed on Israel. Israel has not publicly commented.

However, early on Sunday morning, a senior Israeli source told Channel 12 TV that the country was planning a “significant response” to the Iranian drone salvo.

Iran’s foreign ministry said Tehran would “not hesitate” to take “further defensive measures” to “safeguard its legitimate interests against any military aggressions”.

The response will be “much larger than last night’s if Israel retaliates against Iran”, the chief of staff of its armed forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri told state TV. IRG commander Hossein Salami added that Tehran will retaliate against any attack on its “interests, officials or citizens”.

Emergency services work at a destroyed building hit by an air strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. An Israeli airstrike has destroyed the consular section of Iran's embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding everyone inside, Syrian state media said Monday. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)
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An airstrike destroyed the consular section of Iran’s embassy in Damascus, killing or wounding a number of Iranian commanders earlier this month. Pic: AP

Ten-year-old “severely injured” by shrapnel

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari told a news conference “99%” of the projectiles were intercepted.

Mr Hagari said: “Regretfully, a 10-year-old was severely injured from shrapnel. We send them our wishes of quick recovery.

“Except for them, as far as we know, there have not been any other casualties and yet this event is not over.”

He added: “Iran pushed the Middle East towards escalation. We will do whatever is necessary in order to defend Israel.”

Air sirens sound in Israel

As the IDF announced the Iranian attack had begun, as did the White House, this weekend, it advised people in the Golan Heights, Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat to take shelter.

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Sky’s Alex Rossi reports live from Jerusalem

More than 300 drones and missiles were launched by Tehran, along with 30 cruise missiles – 25 of which were intercepted outside Israel’s borders, according to the IDF.

They said Israeli forces had “successfully intercepted” the majority of the launches with its air defence system – as well as with help from its strategic allies – before they reached Israel.

Mr Hagari said the Nevatim Air Force base had been targeted and struck, suffering “slight damage to infrastructure alone” but it continued to function.

In this image released by the White House, President Joe Biden, third from right, meets with members of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)
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US President Joe Biden meets with members of the National Security team. Pic: White House via AP

Mr Hagari also said 120 ballistic missiles were launched at Israel, but only a few managed to cross the border.

Drones were seen flying from Iran, through Iraqi airspace and in the direction of Israel, two Iraqi security sources told Reuters.

The drones are carrying 20kg of explosives each, Amos Yadlin, a retired general in the Israeli air force, told Channel 12 TV.

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Iraq and Jordan close airspace

An ‘unprecedented’ attack

Mr Biden labelled the attack by Iran and its “proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq”, as “unprecedented”.

He condemned it in the strongest possible terms and said that the US military had moved aircrafts and ballistic missile defence destroyers to the region over the course of the past week.

He also spoke to Mr Netanyahu and reaffirmed his “ironclad” support for Israel and said he was going to convene his fellow G7 leaders in response to “Iran’s brazen attack”.

‘Attack further undermines regional security’

US, British and French planes assisted in the Israeli response to the attack.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement that additional RAF jets and air refuelling tankers had also been deployed to the region to “bolster” Operation Shader – the UK’s existing counter-IS operation in Iraq and Syria.

“In addition, the jets will intercept airborne attacks within range of our existing missions,” he said.

“I strongly condemn the senseless airborne attack that Iran has launched on Israel. It serves no benefit other than to further undermine regional security.”

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Jets from Jordan are also thought to have shot down Iranian drones flying across their airspace towards Israel, security sources have told the news agency Reuters – despite Tehran issuing an earlier warning to the country not to interfere with their strikes.

Israeli aviation authorities closed the country’s airspace to all flights – but it was reopened again several hours after the attacks.

Wing of Zion – Israel’s version of Air Force One – is airborne because of “operational considerations” and Mr Hagari added that the situation was “still unfolding”, and Israel continued to monitor its borders.

‘Reckless attack’

Earlier, Israel called off school trips and other youth activities planned for the coming days.

Jordan temporarily closed its airspace, state media reported, as did Iraq. Both have now reopened.

Egypt said its air defences were on alert.

Eithad airways has cancelled its services today to Tel Aviv in Israel and Amman in Jordan.

Read more:
Direct attack against Israel by Iran is unprecedented
Iran attack on Israel: Everything we know so far

Israel’s PM vows Rafah invasion will go ahead

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Explosions light up the sky above Jerusalem

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he condemned “in the strongest terms the Iranian regime’s reckless attack against Israel”.

He added: “Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.

“The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “We condemn the Iranian regime’s decision to subject Israelis to these unacceptable attacks.

“The international community has been united in urging restraint, and we regret that, yet again, Iran has chosen a different, dangerous path.”

Saudi Arabia also called on all parties to exercise the “utmost levels” of restraint and to spare the region and its people the dangers of war, while UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres also urged “maximum restraint”.

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All-out war, or not, in the Middle East? Biden’s test at the most dangerous moment

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All-out war, or not, in the Middle East? Biden's test at the most dangerous moment

“What next?” It’s a question anxiously asked too many times in the past six months.

And no doubt the question formed the crux of the late-night call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Follow live: Iran launches attack on Israel

Iran’s spectacular drone and missile assault on Israel is truly unprecedented.

A region already reeling from the Hamas attacks and the Israeli retaliation on Gaza is being rocked again.

American leadership and leverage, tested repeatedly, is undergoing a bigger strain still.

This time though the consequence of President Biden’s test is all-out war, or not, in the Middle East. It is the scenario most feared since 7 October.

More on Iran

Without question, this moment – right now – is the most dangerous yet, by a long way.

A direct attack by Iran, from Iranian soil, against Israel is a red line crossed in Tel Aviv.

Image:
The aftermath of the airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on 1 April. Pic: Reuters

Iran’s trigger was another unprecedented moment and another red line crossed, on 1 April, when a missile landed on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria killing 16 people. The Israeli trigger for that? Iran’s malign regional behaviour, as they would see it.

Tit, tat, tit, tat. You can see how this spirals. It explains the grim faces of the US president and his officials in the White House situation room overnight.

Even though so many of the drones and missiles were intercepted and despite no mass casualty scenario, Israelis will feel profoundly vulnerable, and the Israeli government may feel compelled to retaliate.

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Explosions light up sky above Jerusalem

Impressions and the re-establishment of deterrence count for a lot in the Middle East.

That is precisely why Iran hit back after the Damascus consulate attack. It’s also why Israel may be unable to ignore Tehran’s weekend wave of drones and missiles. Never in its history has Israel faced an aerial assault like this.

Read more:
Netanyahu convenes Israeli war cabinet as Iran attacks

Direct attack against Israel by Iran is unprecedented
Iran attack on Israel: Everything we know so far

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And of course, in the White House they know all this all too well. But we all know too that the US-Israeli relationship has been severely strained by Gaza.

President Biden’s test now is to balance the action and reaction of a nation facing a moment that will feel, internally, to be existential with the consequences of an all-out regional war.

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Why has Iran launched drones?

Significant Jewish settler violence in the West Bank, Hezbollah attacks from southern Lebanon and the continued disaster in Gaza all risk compounding the chaos.

Iran’s actions were more than anyone had expected. An unprecedented and enormously risky attack on Israel. It was an extreme attempt to re-establish deterrence. That works both ways.

Just six months ago, days before 7 October, President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan wrote “the region is quieter than it has been for decades… We have de-escalated crises in Gaza & restored direct diplomacy…”

He was spectacularly misguided.

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Sydney stabbings: Police name attacker who killed six people as Joel Cauchi

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Sydney stabbings: Police name attacker who killed six people as Joel Cauchi

The Sydney stabbings attacker who killed six people has been named by police.

New South Wales Police (NSW) said on Sunday that Joel Cauchi, 40, was responsible for the attack on Saturday afternoon at a busy Sydney shopping centre before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Cauchi, who police said suffered from unspecified mental health issues, launched the knife attack at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Bondi Junction.

Investigators are not treating the incident as terrorism-related and have spoken to Cauchi’s family.

NSW assistant police commissioner Anthony Cooke told reporters at a press conference: “We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved.

“There is still, to this point… no information we have received, no evidence we have recovered, no intelligence that we have gathered that would suggest that this was driven by any particular motivation – ideology or otherwise.”

A woman pays her respect and lays flowers at the scene of Saturday's mass stabbing. Pic: Reuters
Image:
A woman pays her respect and lays flowers at the scene of Saturday’s mass stabbing. Pic: Reuters

Ash Good
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Ashlee Good

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Dying mum throws baby to brothers

Cauchi’s family released a statement today through Queensland Police.

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They said: “We are absolutely devastated by the traumatic events that occurred in Sydney yesterday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and those still undergoing treatment at this time.

“Joel’s actions were truly horrific, and we are still trying to comprehend what has happened.

“He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.”

Six killed in stabbings

New mum Ashlee Good has been named as one of the six people killed in the stabbings.

The 38-year-old was reported to have passed her baby to two men after she was injured.

“I was holding the baby. It looked pretty bad,” one of the men told 9News.

His brother added: “He helped with holding the baby and trying to compress the baby and same with the mother.

Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

Police do not believe the attack was terror-related. Pic: Reuters
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Police do not believe the attack was terror-related. Pic: Reuters

“We just kept yelling out to get some clothes, get some shirts and just help us to compress and stop the baby from bleeding.”

The other brother added: “There was a lot of blood on the floor. I hope the baby is alright.”

A statement from Ms Good’s family, as reported by ABC, said: “Today we are reeling from the terrible loss of Ashlee, a beautiful mother, daughter, sister, partner, friend, all-round outstanding human, and so much more.

“We appreciate the well wishes and thoughts of members of the Australian public who have expressed an outpouring of love for Ashlee and our baby girl.

Emergency service workers are seen at the scene at Bondi Junction. Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

Six people were killed in the attack. Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

“The two men who held and cared for our baby when Ashlee could not – words cannot express our gratitude. We are struggling to come to terms with what has occurred.”

The family added that after hours of surgery the baby was doing well.

The daughter of an Australian businessman has also been named as one of the victims.

Dawn Singleton, 25, was also killed according to widespread media reports in Australia.

Her dad, John Singleton, 82, is a well-known Australian entrepreneur.

According to Ms Singleton’s LinkedIn profile she studied a degree in communications at the University of Technology Sydney.

A third victim was named as Faraz Tahir, by the Australian Pakistani National Association.

They described him as “courageous” and said he was a Pakistani national who had moved to Australia for work.

“Let us stand together in solidarity, offering support and prayers to those grieving and affected by this heartbreaking loss,” their statement said.

New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said in a press conference that a man in his 30s killed in the attack was a security guard at the shopping centre.

Six people, five women and one man, aged between 20 and 55, were killed in the attack and 12 others remain in hospital including Ms Good’s child.

Video footage appears to show people fleeing from a knife-wielding Cauchi as he walked through the shopping centre, lunging at people.

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World’s oldest conjoined twins die
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He was only stopped when Inspector Amy Scott shot Cauchi dead at the scene.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the lone officer was “certainly a hero” whose actions had saved many more lives.

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Authorities said the suspect is known to them

He added: “The wonderful inspector who ran into danger by herself and removed the threat that was there to others, without thinking about the risks to herself.

“We also see the footage of ordinary Australians putting themselves in harm’s way in order to help their fellow citizens.

“That bravery was quite extraordinary that we saw yesterday.”

Inspector Scott was shown in local media footage administering CPR on the man after he was shot.

“When I met Amy last night… we talked about her going straight into police mode, everything she has been taught during her career and how instinctive it was,” NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley said.

She added: “When I said to her ‘thank you for your courage’ she said ‘it was not just me, the bystanders around me were so helpful’. (She was) so humble, it’s just typical of a NSW police officer.”

The shopping centre remains closed on Sunday and will be an active crime scene over the coming days, police said.

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