Sydney church stabbing: police charge 16-year-old boy with terrorism offence

<span>A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence after an alleged stabbing at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley.</span><span>Photograph: Jaimi Joy/Reuters</span>
A 16-year-old boy has been charged with a terrorism offence after an alleged stabbing at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley.Photograph: Jaimi Joy/Reuters

Police have charged a 16-year-old boy alleged to have stabbed a bishop and priest at a western Sydney church with a terrorism offence.

The teenager was due to face a hospital bedside hearing of the Parramatta children’s court on Friday. He is still recovering from surgery after his finger was severed during the alleged attack on Monday night.

On Thursday night police announced the teenager had been charged and that he had been refused bail.

Police said on Thursday afternoon counter-terrorism investigators “attended a medical facility to interview the boy, before he was charged with committing a terrorist act … an offence which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life”.

Earlier on Thursday the first person arrested and charged for taking part in a riot that broke out in the aftermath of the alleged stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, 53, at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church appeared at court.

Dani Mansour, 19, was charged with riot, affray and destroying or damaging property as part of the crowd who allegedly attacked police on Monday night.

Related: Sydney bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel forgives alleged attacker after church stabbing, calls for ‘Christlike’ response

A 39-year-old priest was also allegedly stabbed by the 16-year-old after trying to intervene, according to police. He and the bishop were expected to recover after undergoing surgery.

The church on Thursday released an audio statement from Emmanuel in which the bishop, speaking from his hospital bed, said he was recovering well and that he was praying for his alleged attacker.

Emmanuel, who has a popular online presence and a large following, has previously criticised Islam and the prophet Muhammad in public sermons.

The teenager who allegedly attacked him was charged as part of a joint investigation with the Australian federal police, Asio and the New South Wales Crime Commission that was launched after NSW police declared the alleged stabbing a “terrorist act”.

On Friday the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, said investigators would allege that the teenager had stabbed the bishop “up to six times” after travelling for 90 minutes from his home to get to the church.

“We will not be able to provide many other details because it is before the court,” Webb told reporters.

She said investigators were “satisfied” the evidence they had found substantiated the terrorism charge.

The Australian federal police commissioner, Reece Kershaw, said the investigation was complex and “remains ongoing”.

Using a warrant, counter-terrorism investigators had examined electronic devices they seized from the teenager’s home, Kershaw said. He did not disclose what they had found on the devices.

Kershaw said he would meet faith leaders over the coming days and that police targeted “radicalisation, not religion”.

“We know that grief hangs heavy over Sydney at the moment,” he said. “There are many communities with questions but our answers will have more meaning if we find commonality and not difference.”

The NSW government will consider additional powers for police as well as tougher knife crime laws after the alleged church attack and the fatal Bondi Junction stabbing spree that occurred just two days earlier.