A woman has been stabbed and police have cordoned off several streets in central Sydney as videos showed a man running through the city centre armed with a knife.

The body of a second woman was found near the scene, police said, though it was too early to say whether the two attacks were connected. And 7 News Australia reported that a third woman attended a Sydney police station after her hand was slashed. 

Police said one female victim had been taken to hospital after what appeared to be an unprovoked attack, and that the assailant had unsuccessfully attempted to attack several others.

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Dramatic video posted to Twitter by a local news reporter showed members of the public using a milk crate, a chair, a crowbar and other everyday items to tackle and pin the attacker down before waiting for police to arrive.

Three Britons were among the passers-by who intervened to tackle the assailant, hailed for their "brave actions" by the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

Lee Cuthbert, Paul O'Shaughnessy and Luke O'Shaughnessy, all from Manchester, were working in the area when they heard the man attempting to stab several people outside.

"He had a balaclava on, he was wielding a knife with blood on it, and we were like: 'Wow, what is going on here?'" Paul O'Shaughnessy told reporters.

The brothers described it as "like an instinct thing" as they chased the attacker to stop him "from doing any more".

"My brother and I just ran across here, these boys followed, and we managed to get a grip with him and another guy," Mr O'Shaughnessy said. "We've got a grip of him and restrained him fully, and then just waited for the cops to come. He's got blood all over him."

In the video, the attacker can be heard shouting “Allahu akbar” before he calls out for someone to “shoot me in the f***ing head”.  A witness tells the 7 News reporter that the assailant “just stabbed a chick”.

New South Wales state police said in a statement that a man was arrested, and that a woman was taken to a hospital in stable condition.  

It was not immediately clear whether others were hurt in the attack, or the status of the assailant himself, who was shown bloodied in the video.

Police said they were dealing with “multiple crime scenes” and urged people to avoid the area, around King St and Clarence St.

A woman who answered the phone at a Subway store near the scene told Reuters: “We saw the person with a knife over there bleeding.

“The cops are here and they blocked the road right now, so we can’t go outside. They said: ‘It’s a crime scene, you can’t come out’,” said the woman.

A witness told reporters the attacker had screamed comments about religion. Police confirmed that he used the phrase “Allahu akbar”, and that the man was acting alone.

Additional reporting by agencies

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