Sept. 3 (UPI) — Police in New Zealand on Friday shot and killed a knife-wielding Islamic State-inspired extremist after he stabbed six people at an Auckland supermarket in an act of violence Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a “terrorist attack.”
The attack happened when a Sri Lankan national entered the New Lynn store and began stabbing people with a knife he grabbed from a shelf, authorities said in a statement.
Police, who’d been surveilling the man, subdued the man within 60 seconds, shooting him when he charged them with the knife, they said. The attacker died at the scene.
All six people injured were hospitalized, three in critical condition and one in serious condition.
Ardern called the assailant during a press conference a “violent extremist” who was a known threat to authorities because of his IS-inspired ideology.
“What happened today was despicable. It was hateful. It was wrong,” she said. “It was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who was gripped by ideology that is not supported here by anyone or any community. He alone carries the responsibility for these acts. Let that be where the judgment falls.”
Ardern said the man arrived in New Zealand in October 2011 and was placed on a terrorist watch list in 2016 due to concerns about his beliefs.
“We have utilized every legal and surveillance power to us to try and keep people safe from this individual,” she said.
Ardern had been personally aware of him, she added.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster explained that man was under constant monitoring and that two tactical police officers who were tailing him ended the violence.
“I’m satisfied based on the information available to me that the staff involved did not only do what we expect they would do in this situation, but did it with great courage,” he said. “The reality is when you are surveilling someone on a 24-hour basis it is not possible to be immediately next to him at all times.”
Coster said they have no evidence to suggest the scope of the intended attack or whether the man had planned for the violence that erupted Friday.
The store was one the man had visited before, Coster said, and he had been “undertaking what appeared to be a normal shopping expedition” before the attack.
The officers, the commissioner said, “were as close as they possibly could be without compromising the surveillance.”
Asked why a man who was a known threat was allowed in the community, Ardern said that authorities used the law to the greatest extent they could to keep him from the wider population.
“That fact that he was in the community will be an illustration of the fact that we haven’t succeeded in using the law to the extent we would have liked. That is why he was being closely monitored at all times,” she said.
When pressed on the matter again, Ardern said the attacker was free “because by law, we could not keep him in prison.”
She added that the government would release further details once suppression orders by the courts are lifted.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the attack.
“Australia condemns the horrific attack in Auckland,” he tweeted. “Our thoughts are with all those affected. We stand with our Kiwi family in deploring all such violent acts designed to create fear and divide us.”
The attack comes more than two-and-a-half years after 51 people were killed during a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques in March of 2019.
The Federation of Islamic Associations said the attack Friday resurrected the trauma they felt during the attack two years ago.
“Terrorists who do such inhumane and vile acts do not belong to any religion,” Ibrar Sheikh, president of FIANZ, said in a statement. “We condemn this act of terror. They act out of sheer hate, and they have no place in our country.”