N.Z. supermarket attacker ID’ed; PM vows stricter terror laws

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Sept. 4 (UPI) — The Islamic extremist who police fatally shot after he attacked seven people in New Zealand was officially identified Saturday as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to tighten counter-terrorism laws.

The man responsible for the Friday attack at an Auckland supermarket was identified as Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, a 32-year-old Sri Lankan national, Radio New Zealand reported

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Privacy laws preventing his identity from being made public earlier lapsed late Friday night.

New Zealand Commissioner of Police Andrew Coster confirmed in an update that five of the victims who were hospitalized after the attack had been stabbed and one suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Overnight, police also identified a seventh victim, who received a minor injury which he treated at home.

The victims include four women, ages 29, 43, 60 and 66, and three men, ages 53, 57, and 77.

“Our thoughts remain with the victims of this horrific attack and their loved ones, who will be suffering great anguish,” Coster said in the update. “We wish to preserve the victims and their families’ right to privacy at what is obviously a distressing time.”

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Coster added that police continue to investigate the events surrounding the attack.

Immigration authorities had sought to revoke Samsudeen’s refugee status, RNZ added. He had arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa and received refugee status in 2013.

Ardern, who called the supermarket stabbing Friday a “terrorist attack,” said in a statement to RNZ the government had gone through a “frustrating” process in trying to deport him for years.

She told reporters Saturday that Samsudeen came to attention of police in 2016 “after he expressed sympathy on Facebook for recent terrorist attacks and comments advocating violent extremism. “

Police formally warned him about posting anti-Western, pro-Islamic State, extremist content online that same year.

In May 2017, Samsudeen was arrested at Auckland Airport when he was believed to be headed on a flight to Syria, Ardern added.

Police also found “restricted publications” and a hunting knife in search of apartment, and charged him with possessing those items, the prime minister said. He eventually pleaded guilty to charges of “knowingly distributing restricted publications,” fraud, and failing to assist police in the execution of their search powers, and he was released on bail.

But in August 2018, while on bail, he was arrested again for buying another hunting knife and another search found “objectional or extremist materials,” at his home, which led to additional charges.

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In May, he was convicted of possession of objectional materials and failing to assist police in exercising search powers and found not guilty on a another charge of possessing objectional materials and charge of possessing a knife in a public place.

Samsudeen was kept in custody until two months before the supermarket stabbing when he received 12 months of “supervision with special conditions,” such as residing at named address, using only the electronic device provided by his probation officer and attending rehabilitation assessment and treatment.

During his time in custody he had assaulted correction officers, the prime minister said, and officials warned that they may have run out of legal avenues to detain him.

She pledged to beef up counter-terrorism laws this month, citing plans to make it illegal to plan a terror attack even if the person does not actually carry it out.

“As soon as Parliament resumes, we will complete that work,” Ardern said. “That means working to pass the law as soon as possible and no later than the end of this month.”