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New Zealand PM vow to pass new anti-terror law

September 4, 2021

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern called for laws to lock up those who plan terror attacks after an "Islamic State"-inspired man stabbed seven in an Auckland shopping mall.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media at a press conference with the details of the Auckland supermarket terror attack
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Andern wants to increase anti-terror protectionImage: Robert Kitchin/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called on Saturday for parliament to pass a law by the end of the month making it illegal to plan terror attacks. The move comes after a man inspired by "Islamic State" ideology stabbed seven people in an Auckland shopping mall before being shot dead by police.

Ardern said three of the victims are in critical condition after the attack on Friday committed by a lone Sri Lankan national.

What happened?

The 32-year-old man, who police said was under constant observation, walked into the Countdown Supermarket in LynnMall, Auckland, at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

"Inside the store, we believe this man took a knife from one of the supermarket shelves and attacked shoppers," the New Zealand police said in a statement.

Undercover police officers that had been tracking the man were on the scene within 60 seconds, said the statement.

Members of the Specialist Tactics Group "challenged the man and diverted his attention. He charged at them with the knife and the officers shot him. He died at the scene shortly afterwards," said the police spokesperson.

The IS-inspired man critically injured three people, seriously wounded one more and hurt two others.

Police guard the area around Countdown LynnMall after a violent extremist took out a terrorist attack stabbing six people before being shot by police
Police have identified the attacker as a known IS sympathizerImage: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Why was the man not in jail?

New Zealand anti-terrorist police said they had had the attacker, identified only as "S," under surveillance since 2016 when he posted "anti-Western and violent" material on social media. He had first arrived in New Zealand on a student visa in 2011.

He was arrested in 2018 on charges of possessing a knife and objectionable material. At the time, authorities thought he was planning a "lone wolf" attack. While in custody, he was charged with assaulting guards, but attempts to have him charged under New Zealand's Terrorism Suppression Act were unsuccessful.

Although he was found guilty on some charges, he had spent three years in prison and "all avenues to continue his detention had been exhausted," Ardern said.

Anti-terror police tracked him constantly after he was released from prison in July for having extremist material that spoke of martyrdom. The attack in Auckland came 53 days after his release.

Ardern wants to pass a law allowing people who plan terrorism to be tried in court and imprisoned if found guilty.

"We will complete that work," she said. "That means we can pass that law as soon as possible and no later than by the end of this month," she promised.

jc/sms (Reuters, AP)