A manhunt is underway after a man emblazoned with a swastika used an improvised flamethrower to attack an Aboriginal woman and her daughter in Australia.
On Tuesday police in Perth, Western Australia, released a composite image of the man showing a white Nazi symbol painted backwards on his face at the time of the attack.
The man was also captured by security cameras in the area dressed almost entirely in black, with the exception of what appeared to be an oversized red neck tie adorned with several white swastikas.
At around 6.20pm on Saturday in the southern Perth suburb of Gosnells, the attacker approached the 40-year-old woman and her 15-year-old daughter, shouting racist abuse before using a deodorant can and cigarette lighter to spray fire at them.
The woman sustained minor burns to her arm and the attacker fled on foot.
Detective Senior Sergeant Sean Bell, of the State Security Investigation Group, said police were treating the attack as racially motivated, and described the assault as “atrocious”.
Det Snr Sgt Bell said the flamethrower attack was “random and cowardly”, targetting a mother and daughter who were “simply going about their daily business”.
“The potential for serious injury was definitely there, it was just fortunate enough he didn’t get close enough to do that,” he said.
“Any assault on a mother and her daughter simply going about their lawful business trying to get something to eat for dinner is atrocious... When you add in the racial element it is certainly not tolerated by society and we treat it very, very seriously.
Det Snr Sgt Bell added that all available resources have been allocated to track down the man.
“Someone in the community knows who this person is and we are asking that member of the community to contact us and assist in identifying this person,” he told a media conference on Tuesday.
Police said there was nothing at this stage to link the man to a specific Neo Nazi gang or a white supremacist group, but investigations are ongoing.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned in its 2019-2020 Annual Report that the 2019 Christchurch attack “continues to be drawn on for inspiration by right-wing extremists worldwide”.
“These groups are also becoming ideological: more aware of and committed to specific dogmas, philosophies and views… The Covid-19 pandemic has been used by Right-wing and issue-motivated extremists to promote their views.
"They are seeking to exploit social and economic dislocation; and their extremist ideology has been spreading more quickly and widely as Australians spend more time online engaging with like-minded individuals.”
The Report also stated that in 2019-20, extreme right-wing individuals comprised around one third of all ASIO counter-terrorism investigative subjects.
Perth was home to the notorious Australian Nationalist Movement, which burned down five businesses owned by families of Asian descent, and bombed another, in 1988 and 1989.
In 1990 the leader of the ANM, which used overtly fascist imagery and slogans, Jack van Tongren, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for 53 offences.
He was released in 2002, and in 2004 three Chinese restaurants were firebombed in Perth, and fascist posters were glued to synagogues and businesses owned by families of Asian descent.
Mr van Tongren received a two-year prison term in relation to these attacks, suspended on the provision he leave the state of Western Australia. His movement was dissolved in 2007.