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Monday, August 15, 2022

Auckland mall terrorist attack: Attacker named as Kiwis of all backgrounds unite to condemn him

A man has been fatally shot by police officers and several shoppers are understood to have suffered life-threatening injuries in horrific scenes at a West Auckland supermarket this afternoon. Video / Facebook

TERROR ATTACK LATEST
* Seven people were injured in yesterday’s attacks. Five are in hospital – three critically hurt – and two are recovering at home
* The attack lasted up to two and a half minutes before the man was shot by police
* Alert level restrictions meant fewer people were in the supermarket, making the “highly paranoid” man hard to follow closely
* He had been tailed for 53 days, involving up to 30 police officers
* More details will be released once suppression lapses although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will never say his name

* Timeline to terror: Mall attacker’s history in NZ
* Auckland mall terrorist attack won’t be last in New Zealand, expert says
* Five years of surveillance to a few minutes of horror: Terror in the supermarket aisle
* Judge lifts suppression for Auckland mall ‘Lone Wolf’ – why details can’t be published yet
* Parliament will soon consider fixing a 19-year flaw in our terrorism laws – but will it make us any safer?

As three stabbing victims from Friday’s terror attack in an Auckland supermarket continued to fight for their lives last night, Kiwis of different faiths and ethnicities joined together to denounce the vile act.

Police revealed the ages of the victims of the Islamic State supporter for the first time yesterday – they included four women aged 29, 43, 60 and 66, and three men aged 53, 57 and 77.

And late last night suppression orders previously prohibiting the publication of the terrorist’s name – Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen – were also lifted.

The Sri Lankan national – who police shot dead in a supermarket aisle at LynnMall Countdown in New Lynn – had also planned an earlier “lone wolf” knife attack, having drawn inspiration from the ultra-radical Isis Islamist group.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised his “despicable” and “hateful” crime had been the act of one person only – “not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity but an individual”.

And Kiwis from all backgrounds and faiths backed that yesterday as support for the victims flowed in.

Imam Gamal Fouda from Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque led the tributes, saying: “We are broken hearted, but we are not broken again.”

Two years ago, 51 Muslims were gunned down in a terror attack on two Christchurch mosques.

Forty-two of the murdered died during Friday prayers at Fouda’s mosque.

In a statement posted by the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Fouda said his community stands with the New Lynn victims.

“We feel strongly the pain of terrorism and there are no words that can convey our condemnation of such a horrible act,” he said.

“All terrorists are the same regardless of their ideology whether it is white nationalism or Isis they stand for hate and we all stand for peace and love.

“This terrorist is not from us and we are one against terror. We pray for the recovery of the injured, and for the safety of our country.”

How the man – who had been earlier referred to as ‘S’ due to the suppression orders – was able to commit his crime, despite being under heavy police surveillance and being a known risk will be the subject of a series of investigations and ongoing debate.

Probes confirmed to date include those being undertaken by the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Coroner.

Five of Samsudeen’s seven victims are in hospital – including the three critically hurt. Two are recovering at home.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG

STORY CONTINUES

Samsudeen earlier arrived in New Zealand in October 2011, when aged 22 and travelling on a student visa. His “extreme” views were not known at the time.

Authorities were first alerted to him in 2016 when he posted “staunchly anti-Western and violent” material on his Facebook page.

He was later arrested in May 2017 at Auckland International Airport when it was believed he was heading for war-torn Syria.

After 12 months in police custody, he was arrested again in 2018 after buying a hunting knife.

A subsequent search of his flat found a large amount of violent material, including an Islamic State video about how to kill “non-believers” in which a masked man cut a prisoner’s throat and wrists.

Prosecutors had hoped to charge him under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

But High Court Judge Justice Matthew Downs dismissed the case, saying that preparing to commit a terror attack was not considered an offence under current laws.

The judgment left politicians and law enforcement authorities scrambling.

"We are broken hearted, but we are not broken again" - Imam Gamal Fouda from Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque pays tribute to the New Lynn victims. Photo / Mike Scott
“We are broken hearted, but we are not broken again” – Imam Gamal Fouda from Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque pays tribute to the New Lynn victims. Photo / Mike Scott

Ardern said politicians had since drafted new anti-terror powers that they hope to pass through Parliament by no later than the end of this month to close the “loophole”.

Most recently, Samsudeen the man was found guilty in May this year of possessing propaganda-style material supportive of Islamic State and was sentenced in July to 12 months’ supervision.

He was required to attend rehabilitation. GPS monitoring was sought but not successful as the judge declined to allow it.

Police then launched a massive surveillance operation that had stretched for 53 days and involved 30 officers by the time the attack occurred on Friday.

On that day, surveillance teams had few clues to suspect Samsudeen was an imminent threat, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

There was nothing unusual about his routine. He travelled by train from Glen Eden to the LynnMall Countdown, arriving at 2.20pm.

Police trailing Samsudeen stopped and waited outside the front of the supermarket due to Covid alert level 4 restrictions, Coster said.

He shopped normally for about 10 minutes.

He had grown accustomed to being under watch and had developed a “high level of paranoia”, Coster said.

The terrorist had been known to challenge members of the public if he thought they were tailing him.

That made it hard to know whether he had pre-planned the attack or seized on the moment opportunistically because he thought there was a break in surveillance, Coster said.

He grabbed a knife on sale in the supermarket shelves and used it to lash out at shoppers.

It took 60-90 seconds after he stabbed his first victim before police heard the shouts.

One 34-year-old local man was in the milk aisle when the terror unfolded.

Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” – meaning “God is most great” – rang out from a loud and strained voice.

He stabbed two women, continually screaming “Allahu Akbar” as he ran down the aisles.

“There was this lady in front of me and he jumped on her,” the witness said.

The force of the attack knocked the woman and terrorist off balance.

He sprang back up, but the witness was behind him and couldn’t see his face.

“He had a knife, a pretty big knife – like I would say the size of his arm. It was very scary. It was like a mini sword.”

Police evacuate witnesses and shoppers from Friday's terror attack. Photo / Alex Burton
Police evacuate witnesses and shoppers from Friday’s terror attack. Photo / Alex Burton

Other shoppers started screaming, “He’s got a knife” and ran to get away.

Chilling video from a member of the public’s cellphone captured the panic.

“There’s someone here with a knife, whānau,” the woman filming says.

“Holy f***. What the f***.”

By this stage, the undercover cops had drawn their pistols.

Hiding in the aisles, innocent shoppers caught up in the attack, were told to stay down.

Seven people have already been injured – the police move in to end it.

Video inside the supermarket records the moment. A volley of gunshots ring out – more than seven bangs can be heard. The terrorist then fell to the ground.

From the time police heard the first shouts – around 60-90 seconds after the first person was stabbed – to when officers shot him dead, it took just 60 seconds. In total, between two to two and a half minutes.

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