New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a terrorist attack at a shopping mall in Auckland was inspired by the Islamic State group. The attacker - a Sri Lankan national who was wielding a knife - has been shot dead by the police. Six people have reportedly been injured.
Ardern said the attacker had been under surveillance before he began his rampage at a supermarket in Auckland, the country’s biggest city.
Ardern said he was shot dead by the police within 60 seconds of the attack starting.
“What happened today was despicable. It was hateful, it was wrong. it was accrued 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.”
Senior law enforcement officials have said that police officers intervened as quickly as they could after the man reportedly took a large knife from a display cabinet in the store. Videos posted online have shown panicked shoppers running out of the supermarket before the sound of gunfire was heard.
The man arrived in New Zealand a decade ago, was identified as a national security threat in 2016 and was under constant monitoring. Although he had reportedly been arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack in 2020, and later cleared by a judge, Ardern said there was no legal reason to keep him in custody. She would not give details because disclosure of information has been restricted by the courts.
Kate Hannah, an extremism research fellow at Auckland University, told Radio New Zealand the man was most probably radicalized online.
“This person most likely has been in that kind of echo chamber for a period of time. He first came to government attention in 2016 and so obviously, potentially, since then has been exposed to this kind of material that has caused him to go down this path,” Hannah said.
Analysts have warned that the attack will be a painful reminder for New Zealanders of the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch in March 2019 when a gunman - a self-confessed white supremacist - murdered 51 worshippers.
It was the South Pacific nation’s worst terror attack
New Zealand Terror Attack Condemned As 'Hateful,' Senseless