A man in New Zealand was shot dead last Friday after a stabbing attack that wounded seven people, The Associated Press reports. Police arrived at the scene of the stabbings within 60 seconds, where he was fatally shot.
The attack occurred at a Countdown supermarket in the country’s largest city, Auckland, at around 2:40 p.m. local time. Those injured were taken to hospitals in the Auckland area, reports The New York Times.
While the stabber’s identity was initially withheld from the public, he has now been named as 32-year old Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan asylum-seeker who came to the country in 2011, according to BBC News.
Samsudeen was known by law enforcement agencies to be a supporter of The Islamic State (ISIS), having been placed on a national terror watchlist. Al Jazeera reports that he first caught the New Zealand authorities’ attention in 2016 by expressing sympathy towards ISIS-related propaganda on Facebook, liking videos and leaving comments that advocated for violence.
According to court reports from the New Zealand Herald, via the Guardian, prosecutors had originally planned to arrest Samsudeen under the Terrorism Suppression Act. He was accused of plotting a “lone wolf” knife attack, but a court ruled that planning an attack in and of itself did not violate existing laws. Samsudeen was eventually released this past July but placed under heavy surveillance, as there was no existing law that would have allowed him to be locked away in jail.
According to Reuters, the attacker used a supermarket visit as an opportunity for the attack. One eyewitness reports he picked up a knife and started “running around like a lunatic,” shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Greatest.”
Since the 2019 Christchurch shootings when a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques, New Zealand has been on high alert for terrorist and ideology-inspired violence. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about the perpetrator of the stabbing attack, stating, “It was carried out by an individual, not a faith. It would be wrong to direct any frustration to anyone beyond this individual,” according to Reuters.
Despite Ardern’s unifying comments after the Christchurch massacre, some may be perplexed as to how the knife-wielder was able to remain free despite being so closely watched by authorities. This event will inevitably raise debate on tightening counterterrorism measures within the country.
In a news briefing, Ardern stated, “We must be willing to make the changes that we know may not necessarily have changed history, but could change the future”. She additionally described the stabbings as a “terror attack” and expected that changes to anti-terrorism legislation would be backed by Parliament by the end of September.
This new legislation aims to resolve some of the “loopholes” and makes it easier to convict those like Samsudeen. Arden said every legal avenue to keep Samsudeen out of the community had been exhausted, which left surveillance the strictest measure left on the table.