New Zealand: Extremist under surveillance stabs six in Auckland supermarket

Jacinda Ardern
NZ PM Jacinda Ardern: "This was a violent attack. It was senseless"

Police in New Zealand shot and killed a “violent extremist” after he stabbed and wounded at least six people in an Auckland supermarket.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was a “terrorist attack” carried out by a Sri Lankan national who was under police surveillance.

The man, who has not been identified, was a supporter of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, Ms Ardern said.

Police killed the man within 60 seconds of the attack on Friday.

“What happened today was despicable, it was hateful it was wrong,” Ms Ardern said in a news conference. “It was carried out by an individual, not a faith.”

Of the six wounded people, three are in a critical condition and one is in a serious condition, health officials say.

“The hospital staff are doing everything they can to preserve their lives,” the mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, told the BBC.

“We’re all horrified by what’s happened. But… justice came pretty swiftly for the offender,” he added.

How did the attack unfold?

It took place at the Countdown supermarket at LynnMall in the district of New Lynn on Friday afternoon.

The attacker reportedly took a large knife from a display cabinet in the store and went on a stabbing spree. Police surveillance teams had been close by the entire time.

One witness told news outlet Stuff NZ that the supermarket was a scene of hysteria, and footage shared online showed people fleeing before the sound of gun shots could be heard.

“[People were] running out, hysterically, just screaming, yelling, scared,” the witness said, adding that he saw an elderly man lying on the ground with a stab wound.

What do we know about the attacker?

The man, whose identity cannot be revealed due to court suppression orders, arrived in New Zealand in October 2011. He became a person of national security interest in 2016.

He had been under round-the-clock monitoring and heavy surveillance due to concerns about his ideology. He was known to multiple agencies, and was also on a terror watchlist.

Ms Ardern said that until Friday, he had not committed any offence. When asked about the man’s motivations, she said they were “Isis-inspired”.

Questions have been raised about why action against him was not taken before six people were injured – especially since he was under close surveillance.

“The reality is, that when you are surveilling someone on a 24/7 basis, it is not possible to be immediately next to them at all times. The staff intervened as quickly as they could and they prevented further injury in what was a terrifying situation,” said Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

He added that the attacker was very surveillance-conscious, and that teams needed to maintain a distance to be effective.

Authorities are confident the attacker was acting alone and that there is no further danger to the community, according to Mr Coster.

image shows map of the attack location

Extremism rears its head – again

Analysis by Phil Mercer, BBC News

This callous act in Auckland will stir painful memories of the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch in 2019.

In that attack, a lone gunman – a self-confessed white supremacist – murdered 51 worshippers. Once again, New Zealand’s geographic isolation and peaceful reputation have proved to be no defence against extremism.

The assailant had, for years, been identified as a threat to national security and was under 24-hour surveillance.

The police acted decisively to prevent further carnage, but they weren’t close enough to stop serious injuries. New terror laws could, however, allow volatile individuals to be detained in the future.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sent a message of support: Kia Kaha New Zealand, he wrote, using Maori words. Stay strong.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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