A Police officer stands guard at the Countdown LynnMall after the knife attack that left seven injured. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The story of the Auckland terrorist

Friday’s attack at a supermarket followed years of attempts by the government to deport a refugee who had become radicalised, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

Officials tried for years to deport the terrorist responsible for Friday’s attack. The man responsible for stabbing shoppers at a west Auckland supermarket had been on the government’s watchlist for years, according to RNZ. After a judge lifted a suppression order over the weekend, the full story of Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen can be told.

But first, a story of a New Zealander who helped his neighbours. Amait Nand was in the freezer section when he heard screaming. He ran over to find a man with a knife. With people on the floor bleeding, Nand ran up to the man armed only with a sign pole and tried to stop him. Stuff looked at people in New Lynn who helped on a horrible Friday.

Seven people were injured in the attack and three remain in hospital while three more are in the ICU, in critical but stable condition. One person has been released from hospital. As the prime minister said Friday: “This was an attack by an individual, not a culture, not a religion or an ethnicity, but an individual who was gripped by an ideology that is not supported by anyone here”.

The man was fighting to keep his refugee status. Samsudeen, a 32-year-old born in Sri Lanka, had been in New Zealand since 2011 when he arrived on a student visa. He made a claim for refugee status soon after, but was declined. He appealed, and was granted the status the following year. The prime minister said on Friday that his claim was based on a fraudulent document.

A turn towards radicalisation. The NZ Herald obtained the man’s refugee application and found that he was angry, worried about his parents, alone and unsupported, without confidence or maturity: “In other words, almost the perfect candidate to be radicalised in his living room.” He came to the attention of police in 2016 after posting comments supporting the Islamic State on Facebook.

His arrest. The man was under close surveillance when he was arrested in 2017 at Auckland airport, presumed to be on his way to Syria. Police found a large hunting knife and Islamic State propaganda in his Auckland apartment. He spent more than a year in jail. Without enough evidence, he was released under supervision and told his refugee status was going to be revoked.

The legal gap. The man couldn’t be charged as a terrorist because of a gap in New Zealand’s laws. Authorities knew he was planning a “lone wolf” knife attack, the NZ Herald reported as much earlier this year, but planning an act of terror is not a crime in New Zealand. Instead, he spent much of the past three years being prosecuted on different charges. Ardern said Friday it was “disappointing” that he couldn’t be held in jail while his deportation went through the appeals process.

Radicalised in New Zealand. The terrorist’s mother told a TV channel in Sri Lanka that her son had been “brainwashed” by neighbours from Syria and Iraq, according to RNZ. The government rejected her account yesterday according to The Spinoff’s live updates, with the deputy prime minister saying there was no proof of her claim. All the same, the man’s family has reprimanded his radical views and said they were heartbroken by his actions The Guardian has raised the question of whether the New Zealand government should have focused more on deradicalisation work, rather than following the man with police officers and trying to kick him out of the country.

The government will toughen anti-terror laws. Officials in the justice ministry were working over the weekend on an overhaul of the country’s terrorism law. The prime minister has now said the bill will pass by the end of the month, according to Stuff. The National party has offered to help to pass the bill first revealed in April, after nearly a decade of warnings that the country’s law was too weak, namely by not making it a crime to plan and prepare for a terrorist attack. Andrew Geddis has written in The Spinoff that a tougher law probably wouldn’t have changed much in this case and parliament shouldn’t rush through legislation.


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