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Jumat, 03 September 2021

New Zealand terrorist attack: What we know about the knife-wielding extremist gunned down in a supermarket - ABC News

Less than three hours after a stabbing at an Auckland supermarket took place, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fronted a press conference calling it a terrorist attack and noting the specific ideology of the offender. 

She could be so sure so quickly because this was someone authorities knew well and long-feared would harm New Zealanders.

The attacker was a Sri Lankan national who arrived in New Zealand in October 2011 and became a person of national security interest from 2016. 

Ms Ardern said the attacker had a violent ideology and was inspired by ISIS. 

"The attacker has been through the court system for several years now," said terrorism expert at Auckland University, Dr Chris Wilson. 

"[He] has been monitored by the police since about 2015 for posting objectionable material on the internet — ISIS related material." 

On Friday afternoon, he stabbed six people in a Countdown supermarket before police shot and killed him. Three people were in critical conditions from their stab wounds. 

Ms Ardern said the New Zealand government had "utilised every legal surveillance power available to us to try and keep people safe from this individual". 

Jacinda Ardern in a face mask, clasping her hands as she walks through doors
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attack as a "violent extremist" well known to police. (

AP: Robert Kitchin

)

Preparing a terrorist attack not a crime

Ms Ardern said the attacker had been in prison but authorities had to release him as there was no legal reason to keep him in custody.

New Zealand media is reporting that last year the Crown had sought to prosecute the man behind yesterday's attack under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, but a High Court judge ruled that preparing a terrorist attack was not in itself an offence under the legislation.

"They had this guy on their radar for five years. So in a sense, they've been working this case for a long time. And it is one of those cases where legislation probably was lagging in terms of what was needed," terrorism expert Dr Greg Barton said. 

"He was arrested and charged with preparations for an act of terror, but unlike Australia, New Zealand doesn't have legislation that means that preparation for an act of terror is a crime in itself.

"So, the courts basically said, 'we can see you've got a problem here, but it's not for the court to make legislation, that there has to be for legislators to do that in Parliament'." 

Ms Ardern said: "The fact that he was in the community will be an illustration that we haven't succeeded in using the law to the extent we would have liked." 

A police officer holding a machine gun stands on a road with ambulances behind him
Police shot dead the "terrorist" within 60 seconds of beginning the attack, New Zealand authorities said. (

New Zealand Herald via AP: Alex Burton

)

How did the monitoring miss it?  

Dr Barton said: "So much of what you observe with surveillance is people doing normal, day-to-day things like go into a shopping mall." 

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the offender's actions in the lead up to the event were not out of the ordinary.  

"He travelled from where he lived in Glen Eden to the Countdown in New Lynn as he had done before," he said.  

"He was closely watched by surveillance teams and a tactical team to monitor his actions and behaviour. He entered the store as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store.  

"We were doing absolutely everything possible to monitor him and indeed the fact that we were able to intervene so quickly, in roughly 60 seconds, shows just how closely we were watching him." 

The level of monitoring reveals something about the rare nature of this case, according to Dr Barton.

"That's the highest level of surveillance," he said. 

"This guy had been arrested, he was out of prison. There were no prospects of making an immediate rearrest, but just for the safety of public they had that level of surveillance.

"It's an extraordinary circumstance to have conditions such that you can justify that level of resourcing when you've got no clear outcome." 

NZ's terror threat

The attack has stirred painful memories of the Christchurch mosques shootings in March 2019, New Zealand's worst terror atrocity, when a white supremacist gunman murdered 51 Muslim worshippers and severely wounded another 40.

Dr Barton said the nature of the attack indicated the offender was "at the top of the scale" of extreme ideology. 

He said interactions with authorities over the past five years would have meant he "was on the boil for years". 

Dr Barton said a lone wolf attack inspired by Islamic State was rare in New Zealand and the circumstances around the individual attacker suggested the root motivation was "not a product of New Zealand society and circumstances". 

"It's a global issue." 

Dr Wilson said the terror threat in New Zealand was moderate and that the primary concern remained to be far-right extremism.  

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NZ police have shot and killed a "violent extremist" in stabbing attack

ABC/AFP

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2021-09-03 20:08:27Z
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