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Auckland mall terrorist attack: Timeline of attacker’s time in New Zealand

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September 4 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said seven people were injured in the terror attack at an Auckland supermarket yesterday and three people are still in a critical condition.

* 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
* The man’s surveillance team couldn’t tail him closely because alert level restrictions meant less people were in the supermarket, making the “highly paranoid” man hard to follow closely
* The man had been tailed for 53 days, involving up to 30 police officers
* More details will be released once suppression lapses overnight tonight although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will never say his name

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has released further details about what authorities knew about the terrorist shot dead after a violent attack at an Auckland mall.

The attack at Countdown at Lynn Mall left seven people injured, five of whom are in hospital. Three of the five hospitalised are in a critical condition, the remaining two are recovering at home.

In the hours after the attack, attention was focused on what the Government, the courts and our police knew about the violent extremist and what lengths authorities went to to keep the community safe from him.

Information released by Ardern today allows us to build a history of the attacker’s time in New Zealand.

Until suppression is lifted, he is known as S.

Timeline to terror

October 2011: The attacker arrives in New Zealand, aged 22, travelling on a student visa. Ardern said it is not known that he held extreme views about violence and terrorism at that time.

April 2016: S is spoken to by police after they become aware of online activity including posted videos and pictures depicting graphic war-related violence, comments advocating for violent extremism and support for Isis terrorists involved in the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the Brussels bombing in March 2016. He is spoken to again in May.

May 2017: Despite being spoken to by police, his online activity continues and S is then arrested by police at Auckland Airport after booking a one-way ticket to Singapore. Police believed he was heading to Syria, based on a conversation he had with a fellow worshipper at his mosque. A subsequent search of his apartment reveals restricted publications and a hunting knife. He is charged with possessing these items and eventually pleads guilty to charges of knowingly distributing restricted publications, fraud and failing to assist police in the execution of their search powers. He is released on bail.

August 2018: While on bail, S buys a knife and is arrested again. Another search finds extremist material, including an Islamic State video about how to kill “non-believers” in which a masked man cut a prisoner’s throat and wrists. He is charged with additional charges of possessing objectionable material, possession of an offensive weapon and failing to assist the police in exercising search powers.

Seven people were injured in the attack. Photo / Hayden Woodward
Seven people were injured in the attack. Photo / Hayden Woodward

September 2018: The terrorist is sentenced to 12 months supervision in relation to the first set of charges, but remains in prison due to the additional charges he committed while on bail. Ardern stated today that in this same month, Government ministers “directed officials to undertake further policy work on counter terrorism legislation”. The policy work would continue throughout 2019 and included policy work to criminalise preparatory acts which might be related to a terrorist intent or plan.

July 2020: The terrorist remains in jail awaiting trial and the Crown makes an attempt to lay an additional charge under the existing Terrorism Suppression Act for the knife and online posts. This is denied by the High Court who say they are bound by law and note in their ruling: “The absence of an offence of planning or preparing a terrorist act … could be an Achilles’ heel.” During this time behind bars he also assaulted corrections officers at Mt Eden Prison, and faced charges on these acts.

July 2020 – May 2021: Work on changing the law to add an offence of committing a preparatory act progresses and a draft bill is introduced in Parliament in April 2021. It had its first reading in May. The Prime Minister says that throughout this period, officials met a number of times to consider what avenues could be pursued to address the risk posed by S and to prepare for the potential that the state may run out of legal avenues to detain him.

May 2021: Ardern seeks further advice on whether prevention orders could be used, and whether the individual had been psychologically assessed. She was later advised that prevention orders could not be used, that he had refused psychological assessment. In the same month, S is convicted in the High Court on the charges of possession of objectionable publications with knowledge and failing to assist the police in exercising search powers. He was found not guilty of another charge of possessing objectionable material, and of the charge of possessing a knife in a public place.

July 6, 2021: S is sentenced to 12 months supervision with special conditions, including residing at a named address and only possessing one device capable of accessing the internet that was approved by his probation officer. He was also required to attend rehabilitation assessment and treatment. GPS monitoring was sought by the Crown, but this was not imposed by the courts. He then applies for bail on the charges of assaulting the Corrections officers.

July 16, 2021 S is released on bail by an Auckland District Court judge.

July 16 – September 3, 2021: S remains under surveillance, including by the armed Special Tactics Group.

August 9, 2021:Ardern meets with officials and discusses further options to reduce the risk S poses to the community.

August 2021: In late August officials, including the Commissioner of Police, raise the possibility of expediting the amendments to the counter terrorism legislation.

September 3, 2021: The Minister of Justice contacts the Chair of the Select Committee with the intention of speeding that law change up. Later that day, S commits his violent attack at Lynn Mall.

‘Agencies used every tool’

In a statement to media today, Ardern said “agencies used every tool available to them to protect innocent people from this individual.”

She vowed to investigate the case in detail, saying: “We owe it to everyone to have other people look at the facts of this case too, to analyse them, to see what was done, and what more could have been done. The IPCA and the coroner will be an important part of this work.”

“But we must also look forward, and as we have always done, we must be willing to make the changes that we know may not necessarily have changed history, but could change the future.”


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