Police shot the assailant minutes after he launched his knife rampage in Auckland on Friday. Undercover agents monitoring the man just outside the Countdown supermarket sprang into action when they saw shoppers running around and heard screams, police said.
They said they thought the man had come in to shop, but he picked up a knife from a rack and started stabbing people. Video of a spectator recorded the sound of 10 shots fired in rapid succession.
Ardern said a total of seven people were injured in the attack, and three are in critical condition.
Court documents named the assailant as Mohamed Samsudeen, 32, a Tamil Muslim who arrived from Sri Lanka 10 years ago on a student visa, seeking refugee status. Police said he was jailed for around three years for previous crimes before being released in July.
PM said the man was inspired by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and was under constant surveillance, but could no longer be kept in prison by law . Ardern said when he arrived in New Zealand he was not known to have had extreme opinions.
Adern said lawmakers would begin work to pass the counterterrorism legislation bill as soon as Parliament resumes, “and at the latest by the end of this month.”
The bill criminalizes planning and preparation that could lead to a terrorist attack, closing what critics have said is a loophole that allows conspirators to remain free.
But Ardern said it wouldn’t be fair to assume the stricter law would have made a difference in this case.
“He was a very motivated person who used a visit to the supermarket as a shield for an attack. It’s an incredibly difficult set of circumstances, ”she said.
Ardern said the assailant came to the attention of police in 2016 because of his support for a violent ideology inspired by ISIS. He had expressed his sympathy on Facebook for the militant attacks, the violent war-related videos and the comments advocating violent extremism.
In May 2017, he was arrested at Auckland Airport where authorities believed he was on his way to Syria. He was charged after restricted publications and a hunting knife was discovered at his home but was released on bail.
In August 2018, he bought a knife again and was arrested and jailed. He was released into the community in July this year when surveillance began, Ardern said.
Ardern was briefed on the case at the end of July and again at the end of August, and officials, including the police commissioner, have raised the possibility of speeding up the amendment of anti-terrorism legislation.
She said she wanted to explain why the assailant had not been deported but could not as it would violate the court’s suppression orders, which also prevented her from identifying him.
New Zealand supermarket group Countdown said on Saturday it had removed knives and scissors from its shelves while considering whether it would continue to sell them.
“We want our entire team to feel safe when they come to work,” said Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s chief security officer, in a statement.
Other supermarket chains had also removed the sharp knives from their shelves, media reported.