Uber suspends driver in Australia over bomb plot allegation

The Uber application on a smartphone during an Uber ride in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Uber has suspended a driver in Australia while police investigate allegations that he told a passenger he led an organization related to the Islamic State movement and planned to blow up Parliament House, the ride-hailing company said Monday.

The passenger, a woman who declined to be identified out of fear for her safety, said on Monday she was heading home from downtown Canberra after a night out with friends when she caught an Uber early Sunday morning.

The woman said the driver said he was from Pakistan and asked if she had "ever eaten human flesh."

He said he planned to blow up a Canberra shopping mall as well as Parliament House and told her he was not taking her to her home on Canberra's outskirts but to the town of Cooma, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the south, the woman said.

She said she told the driver to pull over at a gas station so she could use the toilet, and called the police emergency number from there. Two police cars arrived about 10 minutes later, she said.

Police said they searched the Uber car but found nothing suspicious. Police drove the woman home and did not arrest the driver.

"Police conducted initial background checks and established there was no threat to the public or the complainant," a police statement said.

It said an investigation of the woman's allegations was continuing with the involvement of national police and security agencies.

The driver's access to the Uber app was restricted when the company became aware of the allegations, Uber said.

"We'll continue liaising with the police as the allegations are assessed," Uber said in a statement.

The woman said police told her the driver didn't dispute her accusations but explained to them "he was just trying to wind me up."

"It was a terrifying experience. I'm so stressed I can't even explain how I feel," she told the AP on Monday.

"I want Uber to be doing a lot more screening of the people that they're bringing on, because apparently it's not doing enough," she said.

The gas station where the journey ended was on a highway to Cooma, but before the turnoff to the woman's home.

Canberra became the first city in Australia to regulate ride sharing when Uber launched there in October 2015.