A stabbing attack in an Auckland supermarket in which multiple people were injured was an act of terrorism, New Zealand’s prime minister says. The suspect was shot dead by police.
“This afternoon, at approximately 2:40pm, a violent extremist undertook a terrorist attack on innocent New Zealanders in the New Lynn Countdown [supermarket] in Auckland,” Ardern said at a press conference.
The suspect was a known threat to authorities and under constant monitoring, she added.
Ardern said the terrorist was a Sri Lankan national who arrived in the country in 2011 and became a person of national security interest from 2016. She described the attacker as an ISIS-inspired “lone wolf.”
The PM confirmed that the terrorist injured six people, three of them seriously, on a stabbing rampage inside a supermarket in New Lynn, a suburb of Auckland. The terrorist was shot and killed roughly 60 seconds later by the same police unit that was tasked with monitoring him, Ardern said.
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Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the terrorist had traveled to the supermarket from Glen Eden, another Auckland suburb, as he had done in the past – all while being “closely watched” by a surveillance team and a tactical team. He entered the store and obtained a knife there.
“When the commotion started, two police tactical operators moved to his location and engaged him. When he approached them with a knife, he was shot and killed,” Coster explained. He said police intervened as quickly as they could, preventing further injuries to shoppers.
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.
Addressing potential questions about the monitoring of the terrorist, the prime minister said the government “utilized every legal and surveillance power available to us to try and keep people safe from this individual.”
The attacker’s name has not been released to the public yet, though Ardern said additional information on his identity would be shared as soon as possible.
A video circulating on social media shows frightened shoppers at the supermarket and a body lying on the floor next to a checkout counter.
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The New Zealand Herald reported that the alleged attacker was a 32-year-old man who was considered a public threat for twice buying large hunting knives and possessing an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) propaganda video. The paper reported last month that the man was accused of planning a lone-wolf stabbing attack, but was ultimately sentenced to one year of supervision, a punishment designed to rehabilitate low-level offenders.
In May, a 42-year-old knifeman was detained after injuring four people inside a Countdown store in the city of Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island. The prime minister and police said at the time that the incident was not a terrorist attack.