Covid-19

New Zealand police waited outside supermarket where knifeman injured seven ‘to avoid being spotted’ 

Police officers in New Zealand tasked with keeping a terrorist suspect under 24-hour surveillance did not follow him into a supermarket where he launched an attack out of fear of being spotted, it has been revealed. 

The yet-to-be identified knifeman, known only as S, had been under heavy surveillance for 53 days when he entered the Countdown supermarket in New Lynn, Auckland, and stabbed five people Friday while shouting ‘Allah, Allah’.

According to reports, terror police were unable to follow the 32-year-old Sri Lankan closely due the small number of people in the shop owing to current coronavirus restrictions, meaning they risked being seen by the ‘highly paranoid’ attacker.

They waited near the entrance instead, allowing S to roam the supermarket for 10 minutes – before he took a kitchen knife off a shelf and went on a 90-second rampage.

Five of the victims in hospital received knife wounds while one suffered a dislocated shoulder and is now recovering at home. Three of the hospitalised are in a critical condition.

A man was identified as a seventh victim overnight, but he is recovering at home after narrowly avoiding being stabbed by S and suffering minor injuries. 

The victims are made up of four women aged 29, 43, 60 and 66, and three men aged 53, 57 and 77. 

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the attacker was either ‘very clever’ or ‘opportunistic’ after managing to launch his assault despite being under close watch by terror police. CCTV footage suggests the attack lasted between 60 and 90 seconds.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on Friday the 32-year-old Sri Lankan national (pictured) was considered one of the nation's most dangerous extremists and was watched 24/7 since 2016. He arrived in New Zealand in 2011

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on Friday the Sri Lankan national was an extremist who was on terrorism watch since 2016

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right) revealed on Friday the 32-year-old Sri Lankan national (left) was considered one of the nation’s most dangerous extremists and was watched 24/7 since 2016. He arrived in New Zealand in 2011

He said: ‘The surveillance team following him (S) observed him taking a trolley at the supermarket and begin shopping as we had observed him doing on previous occasions.

‘He was shopping as normal for approximately 10 minutes before the attack started.’

He said the short amount of time before the attack either indicated he was ‘very clever in the way he planned it’, or ‘opportunistic and did it at short notice’ – adding that we will ‘never know the answer’. 

Officers shot the terrorist dead within 60 seconds of hearing shouts and seeing people running from the supermarket. 

Mr Coster defended the police and said there was no indication an attack was imminent when S arrived to the supermarket via train at 2.20pm, adding that long-term surveillance is ‘difficult’.

He said: ‘Surveillance is different from a security detail. These are highly-trained specialists…they are very good at what they do.

‘I want to reaffirm that our police staff showed great bravery and professionalism in their response to this attack.’

Mr Coster described S as ‘highly paranoid’ and said he used counter-surveillance measures and accused members of the public of following him. 

He vowed to increase police presence at supermarkets and other locations in a bid to reassure the public, while praising those who rushed to help victims of Friday’s attack.

He said: ‘I also want to acknowledge those other people caught up in the attack – the staff at Countdown LynnMall and other members of the public who were present, either in the supermarket or in the surrounding mall area. 

‘This will have been an incredibly shocking and distressing event for all involved.’ 

Mr Coster added: ‘Our thoughts remain with the victims of this horrific attack and their loved ones, who will be suffering great anguish.’  

S still remains unnamed after a New Zealand judge imposed a gagging order protecting the jihadist and his family’s privacy.

He moved to New Zealand in 2011, but was placed under 24/7 police surveillance having recently been released from prison on terror-related charges.  

The Islamist’s identity will remain shielded under New Zealand’s stringent privacy laws, after a High Court judge ruled the knifeman’s family must have at least 24 hours to give his family an ‘opportunity to seek a suppression order’. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described ‘S’ as an ‘ISIS-inspired known threat,’ adding that he was ‘under constant police surveillance’ since 2016 as she is set to face a grilling over New Zealand’s tepid anti-terror laws that let a known Islamist roam freely.

Despite fears ‘S’ had been planning a terror attack, courts previously ruled he could only be convicted of lesser charges of possessing ISIS propaganda, resulting in a menial jail sentence despite police knowing he was ‘extremely dangerous’ and ‘very likely to carry out an attack’. 

His six victims are tonight fighting for their lives in hospitals across New Zealand’s north island. Three of those who received stab wounds were described as being in a ‘critical’ condition, with injuries to the neck and chest.

Amit Nand (pictured) recalled how he confronted the knife-wielding terrorist with a pole

The attacker was a known threat risk since 2016 and was under 'constant police surveillance', Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) said

Amit Nand (left) recalled how he confronted the knife-wielding terrorist, who Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (right) said was a known threat risk ‘under constant surveillance’ with a pole 

Six people were rushed to hospitals across New Zealand's north island on Friday afternoon while the knifeman died inside the Countdown supermarket in New Lyn

Six people were rushed to hospitals across New Zealand’s north island on Friday afternoon while the knifeman died inside the Countdown supermarket in New Lynn

Legal experts have slammed New Zealand’s flimsy anti-terror laws, which have allowed significant ‘gaps’ in legislature to sneak through.

Alexander Gillespie, a professor of law at the University of Waikato, said: ‘This was apparent from the middle of last year, about the planning or preparation for a terror offence… if you’re convicted of that then you can go to jail for up to seven years with the proposed new law coming through,’ reports the New Zealand Herald. 

It comes as a heroic shopper revealed how he attacked knife-wielding ‘S’ at a New Zealand supermarket with a pole just seconds before the terrorist was shot dead by police. 

Amit Nand said he saw a woman lying on the floor bleeding before confronting the attacker who stabbed six shoppers at a West Auckland supermarket on Friday afternoon.   

‘A lot of people were running my way saying run, just run out of the building,’ Mr Nand told The Project New Zealand on Friday night. 

‘Then I saw a lady laying on the floor there bleeding and she was like “help, help”. And I thought to myself “I’ve got to do something” and then I saw the guy with the knife.’

He said the attacker had a large knife on him and was repeating ‘Allah, Allah’ as he lunged at shoppers at the Countdown supermarket in New Lynn Mall. 

Another shopper at the supermarket had a pole and gave it to Nand, who grabbed it and told the terrorist to drop the knife he was wielding. 

‘I saw the guy with the knife and he’s like ‘Allah, Allah’ with the knife up,’ Mr Nand said.

‘I had another guy come in front of me and he was a cop and was like ‘I’m an undercover cop, step back step back, I’m going to shoot him’.’ 

Nand stepped back and heard five shots. He said that by looking at him, he knew the terrorist wanted to kill people. 

The shots can be heard in mobile phone footage captured from outside the supermarket’s entrance as frightened shoppers rush past. 

A commotion inside the store can be seen as the camera pans past a trail of blood leading from the entrance. 

Mr Nand recalled how he grabbed tea towels and nappies from the shelves to try to stop the injured from bleeding out.  

The six injured were left fighting for life in hospitals across New Zealand’s north island on Friday night. Three of the victims were described as being in a ‘critical’ condition, with neck and chest wounds.

Two others were in a ‘moderate’ condition and another was in a ‘serious’ condition. 

The knifeman is known to have posted a warning to ‘Kiwi scums’ on social media after receiving a formal warning from police over his disturbing internet searches and purchases.   

On Friday, the man was followed by police from his home all the way to the supermarket where he grabbed a knife from a shelf and began his attack. 

There had been fears of an imminent terror attack in the wake of the Taliban takeover and the chaotic departure of Western powers from Afghanistan, with extremists emboldened by the radical Islamists’ return to power. 

Ardern revealed that the suspect was considered one of the nation’s most dangerous extremists and had been watched 24/7 since 2016, adding she was ‘gutted’ he was able to carry out the attack despite being on the terror watchlist. 

Due to suppression orders that are already in place, the prime minister says there is information about the man's identity  (pictured) and past that cannot yet be revealed

Due to suppression orders that are already in place, the prime minister says there is information about the man’s identity  (pictured) and past that cannot yet be revealed

Six people were left fighting for life in hospitals across New Zealand’s north island on Friday afternoon while the knifeman died inside the Countdown supermarket in New Lynn

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the man was ‘closely watched by surveillance teams and a strategic tactical team’ during this time. 

‘The reality is when you are surveilling someone on a 24-hour basis it is not possible to be immediately next to them,’ he said. 

The man arrived in New Zealand in 2011, but he had not committed sufficient crimes to be detained on a longterm basis before the attack.

TERROR CONVICTIONS… HATED ‘KIWI SCUMS’ – BUT ALLOWED TO WALK FREE 

The knifeman who was shot dead in a Countdown supermarket on Friday was known to police and politicians for his extremist views, which were largely inspired by terror group, ISIS.

The man, known only as ‘S’ due to High Court suppression orders, arrived in New Zealand in 2011 from Sri Lanka and was first placed on the terror watchlist in 2016 after authorities were alerted to extremist posts he made on social media. 

Some of the videos he shared online depicted war-related violence, a clear approval of violent extremism and pledging his support for ISIS, New Zealand Herald reported.

He received an official warning from police but continued to post the material, including a comment which read: ‘One day I will go back to my country and I will find kiwi scums in my country… and I will show them… what will happen when you mess with S while I’m in their country. If you’re tough in your country… we are tougher in our country scums #payback’.

‘S’ reportedly told a worshiper at a mosque that he hoped to join ISIS in Syria and was detained at Auckland International Airport in 2017 after booking a one-way flight to Singapore.  

He spent a year in custody before pleading guilty to distributing restricted material, earning a supervision order in 2018.

The day after he was released from prison, ‘S’ was arrested by counterterrorism police who followed him as he purchased a hunting knife. 

Internet search history reportedly found he’d researched how to kill ‘non-believers’.    

Police hoped to prosecute ‘S’ under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, but it was determined that preparing a terrorist attack was not an offence under the legislation, given he had not carried out any attacks.  

He was prosecuted on lesser charges of possessing propaganda in support of ISIS.

During his trial, ‘S’ reportedly told the jury: ‘You’re worried about one knife, I am telling you I will buy 10 knives. It’s about my rights.’ 

S had reportedly performed internet searches asking about the guidelines of ‘lone-wolf mujahideen’, knife attacks and prison conditions in New Zealand.Following his release from prison, he was kept under 24/7 surveillance by police, who followed him from his home to the store on Friday.

‘What happened today was despicable, hateful and wrong,’ she said. ‘It was carried out by an individual, not a faith or religion. He was gripped by violent and ISIS-inspired ideology that is not supported here.

‘This was a violent attack. It was senseless. And I am so sorry that it happened.’ 

A surveillance team and special tactics group monitored the man at all times and plain clothes officers were able to shoot and kill him within 60 seconds of launching the attack after detectives were so close they ‘heard’ the commotion.

Due to suppression orders that are already in place, Ardern says there is information about the man’s identity and details of his past criminal history that cannot yet be revealed.  

She vowed to share any further details ‘within the confines of the law’ if the court lifted suppression orders in the wake of his death.

But Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff said it is ‘frustrating’ that Ardern cannot reveal more details about the attacker.

Suppression orders are normally applied automatically under a statute or are ordered by a judge during a trial process.

Some people can argue for name suppression to protect their reputation, while it can also be granted because of ongoing court proceedings in which releasing their name could cause potential prejudice.

Suppression orders have to be lifted by a judge and still apply after death. It is not known why the order was applied to the attacker.

The prime minister said: ‘He was known to our national security agencies, was of concern and was being monitored constantly. There are very few people that fall into this category.’

She reiterated that if the offender had committed a crime in the past that would have allowed authorities to put him in prison, ‘that’s where he would have been’.   

‘The reason he was in the community is because within the law we could not put him anywhere else. His past behaviour was, within the threshold of the law, not enough to put him in prison.’ 

The attack has stirred painful memories of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019, New Zealand’s worst terror atrocity, when a white supremacist gunman murdered 51 Muslim worshippers and severely wounded another 40. 

Ardern said: ‘The fact that he was in the community will be an illustration that we haven’t succeeded in using the law to the extent we would have liked. 

‘I know that we’ve been doing everything that we could, so I was absolutely gutted.’

The 32-year-old offender reportedly landed himself on terror watchlists after twice buying hunting knives and being found to possess Islamic State propaganda videos, NZHerald reported. 

After receiving an official warning from police over his internet search history and purchases, ‘S’ continued to consume extremist content online online and posted the following warning on social media:

‘One day I will go back to my country and I will find Kiwi scums in my country… and I will show them… what will happen when you mess with S while I’m in their country. If you’re tough in your country… we are tougher in our country scums #payback,’ he wrote. 

In May 2017, he was arrested at Auckland International Airport after booking a one-way ticket to Singapore.

A subsequent search of his apartment uncovered weapons and images of him posing with an air rifle and hunting knife, the New Zealand Herald reported.

He was held in custody without bail for more than a year and eventually pleaded guilty to distributing restricted material.

A High Court judge sentenced him to supervision in 2018 because of the amount of time he had already spent in prison.  

The day after he walked free from prison in 2018, ‘S’ purchased yet another hunting knife. He was arrested again, but was not prosecuted under the liberal country’s terrorism laws, which police, politicians and judicial officials have long criticised as not fit for purpose

On May 26, 2021, ‘S’ was back in court, where he was acquitted of possessing a graphic video and possession of an offensive weapon, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The video reportedly showed a prisoner being decapitated. 

The court heard how he had performed internet searches asking about the guidelines of ‘lone-wolf mujahideen’, knife attacks and ‘How to survive in the west a mujahid guide’.

‘S’ had reportedly told worshipers in his mosque that he intended to join ISIS.

He had also researched the case of ISIS supporter Imran Patel – the first person in New Zealand jailed for distributing extremist videos. 

Police guard the area around Countdown LynnMall in Auckland after a violent extremist arried cout a terrorist attack on Friday

Police guard the area around Countdown LynnMall in Auckland after a violent extremist arried cout a terrorist attack on Friday

He was sentenced in July to one year of supervision to be served at a West Auckland mosque, the paper said.     

Police had hoped to prosecute ‘S’ under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, but it was determined that preparing a terrorist attack was not an offence under the legislation, given he had not carried out any attacks.  

He was prosecuted on lesser charges of possessing propaganda in support of ISIS.

During his trial, ‘S’ reportedly told the jury: ‘You’re worried about one knife, I am telling you I will buy 10 knives. It’s about my rights.’ 

Justice Matthew Downs in his ruling acknowledged the dangers of ‘lone wolf terrorist attacks’ and appeared to suggest that New Zealand’s current terror legislation was not fit for purpose. 

Terrorism is a great evil. ‘Lone wolf’ terrorist attacks with knives and other makeshift weapons, such as cars or trucks, are far from unheard of. Recent events in Christchurch demonstrate New Zealand should not be complacent,’ he said.

‘Some among us are prepared to use lethal violence for ideological, political or religious causes. The absence of an offence of planning or preparing a terrorist act … could be an Achilles’ heel.

He concluded: ‘It is not open to a Court to create an offence, whether in the guise of statutory construction or otherwise. The issue is for Parliament.’

Justice Downs’ concerns were echoed by an inquiry into the Christchurch attacks. 

Police and security agencies in the country have long complained that they are constricted by New Zealand’s counterterrorism legislation.

The Labour government proposed new anti-terror powers in April, which officials said were partly prompted by the judgement in the case of ‘S’.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill passed its first reading in May and is currently with the country’s select committee before a second reading is held. 

The proposed legislation would criminalise preparing to launch a terrorist attack, update the legal definition of a terrorist act and criminalise ‘wider forms of material support for terrorist activities or organisations’.

Ardern reiterated several times on Friday afternoon that the Countdown attack was the work of ‘an individual, not a faith’. 

Disturbing footage of the attack was shared online, showing customers running to safety as at least 10 police units swarmed the surrounding streets. 

‘Holy f**k. Oh my God… Someone is in there with a knife, somebody has been stabbed,’ a woman said in the footage 

A witness said people were ‘running out, hysterically, just screaming, yelling, scared’ as an elderly man laid injured on the floor and a middle-aged woman was stabbed in the shoulder.

One bystander video taken from inside the supermarket records the sound of 10 shots being fired in rapid succession. 

The offender was reportedly acting ‘like a lunatic’ and indiscriminately lunging at anybody in his path, the witness said. 

Another woman said she heard police ordering the offender to surrender before five gunshots rang out. 

Two officers were involved in shooting him dead.  

The three victims who remain in a critical condition were rushed to Auckland City hospital along with a fourth person in a serious condition. 

At least 10 police units were quickly on the scene and surrounded the shopping precinct before the knifeman was shot dead

At least 10 police units were quickly on the scene and surrounded the shopping precinct before the knifeman was shot dead

Roads near the area have been blocked by officers, who are still investigating

Roads near the area have been blocked by officers, who are still investigating

One victim in a stable condition was taken to Waitakere Hospital while another was rushed to Middlemore Hospital.  

Two of the victims were rushed straight into emergency abdominal surgery.

At least 20 frantic Countdown customers fled to safety at nearby Unichem Pharmacy, which was already brimming with about 45 patients waiting to get their Covid jab.

Customers fled the supermarket and witnesses reported chaotic scenes as police shot the knifeman dead

Customers fled the supermarket and witnesses reported chaotic scenes as police shot the knifeman dead

Staff immediately locked the doors and called for help.

‘It wasn’t a nice scenario. Everyone was pretty shocked and worried, but everybody is fine,’ a staff member said. 

At least 10 police units were quickly on the scene and surrounded the shopping precinct before the knifeman was shot dead. 

The Masjid e Bilal mosque, just five kilometers away from the supermarket, is also surrounded by armed police and is believed to form part of the police investigation. 

Kiri Hannifin, Countdown supermarket’s general manager of safety, released a statement on Friday afternoon stating her ‘heart was heavy knowing what our team and customers have witnessed’. 

‘We are particularly devastated that something like this has happened again in one of our stores. It’s difficult to comprehend and the events of today leave our whole team in deep shock,’ she said.

Just four months ago, four customers were stabbed in a random attack at a Dunedin Countdown on the nation’s south island. 

A 42-year-old alleged offender was arrested at the time and remains before the courts. 

‘The safety of our team, and our customers, is always our priority, and this is at the heart of our COVID-19 response as well. We will cooperate with the Police in any way we can to understand what’s happened, and at this point we’re unable to provide any further details.’ 

Auckland is currently in a strict lockdown as it battles an outbreak of the coronavirus. Most businesses are shut and people are generally allowed to leave their homes only to buy groceries, for medical needs or to exercise. 

The store will be closed until further notice.  




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