NSW man charged with firearm offenses over shooting at Canberra Airport

Man charged with firearm offenses over shooting at Canberra Airport to undergo mental health assessment

A 63-year-old man has been charged with firearm offenses and will undergo a mental health assessment after allegedly firing multiple rounds inside Canberra Airport yesterday.

About 1:30pm on Sunday, shots were fired inside the airport, and a man was arrested.

No one was injured.

Police allege Ali Rachid Ammoun arrived at the airport about 1:20pm and sat on some seats near the check-in desks on the first floor.

About 1:25pm, they said he drew a firearm and fired a number of shots into the windows of the building.

Australian Federal Police officers who were stationed within the airport terminal apprehended Mr Ammoun.

Bullets damaged the glass windows of Canberra Airport after Mr Ammoun allegedly opened fire.(ABC News: Harry Frost)

The airport was evacuated and plans were grounded for about three hours as ACT Policing and AFP Airport Police worked in partnership to secure the area and confirmed Mr Ammoun was acting alone.

Canberra Airport returned to normal operations about 5:00pm, with flights resuming shortly afterwards.

Alleged shooter to be sent for mental health assessment

Mr Ammoun appeared by video link in the ACT Magistrates Court this morning.

He is facing three charges, including firing and possessing a Smith and Wesson revolver, and intentionally discharging the gun causing another person to fear for their safety.

In court, his only request was that the ABC be excluded.

Magistrate Robert Cook refused the application, saying it was an open court.

Mr Ammoun did not apply for bail, and has been remanded in custody to undergo a mental health assessment at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The case will return to court on September 5.

Three bullet holes in large glass windows.
At least three bullet holes are visible in the glass windows of Canberra Airport.(ABC News: Harry Frost)

ABC reporter Lily Thomson, who was at the airport at the time, said she heard loud bangs and then saw people running towards her.

“I just assumed people were running for their flight,” she said.

But she said she realized something was wrong when people started screaming “run.”

She said she was left feeling “shaken” afterwards.

“It’s just the feeling of not knowing, that’s quite terrifying,” she said.

“As soon as we got out, people were on their phones to loved ones, hugging each other, that kind of thing.”

Airport CEO praises police response

People seated on a plane.
Passengers waited on grounded planes while the airport was locked down during the police response to the shooting.(ABC News: Mark Alexander)

Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron said despite the “terrifying” nature of the incident, authorities had responded well.

“We had our team both on-site and others coming into play straight away,” he said.

“The AFP has trained for these sorts of situations, where you have an armed intruder in an airport environment, and they have teams that are in place and they respond and indeed engaged immediately.

“In this case the offender was calm and submitted to their arrest.”

He said police had worked “incredibly efficiently and effectively” to sweep the airport and ensure no one else was involved.

“In fact, it was a pretty quick process, taking about three and a quarter hours for the terminal to be fully reopened,” he said.

More security at airports not needed: expert

John Coyne, the head of the Border Security Program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the shooting was extremely rare by Australian standards, and there was not much more airports could do to respond to such an incident.

He said extra security at the front entrance, a measure suggested by some, could actually create even more of a risk.

“That could be a good idea, but then all of a sudden you’ve got large crowds of people lining up in the close vicinity of cars on the sidewalk waiting to go in, so that’s an even bigger target where even more casualties could occur ,” Mr Coyne said.

“I’ve always asked, can you make an airport really secure? And I always say, yes you can — what you can do is you can make sure that no plans fly, no one works at the airport and that there’s no travellers, because everything after that is a compromise.”