Crime & Justice

NZ pushes for month-end terror law overhaul, attack casualty toll raised

Sydney, Australia, Sep 4 (EFE).- New Zealand authorities aim to overhaul terror laws by the end of the month as it raised the number of people injured in Auckland’s terrorist stabbing attack to seven and revealed the perpetrator’s criminal past on Saturday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday that police shot dead a known “violent extremist” and “supporter of ISIS ideology” under close monitoring about a minute after he stabbed six people in a “terrorist attack” in a supermarket at a west Auckland mall.

Three people were on Saturday in critical condition in hospital, while a seventh injured person was identified overnight.

“That person narrowly missed being stabbed, but did suffer an injury from the knife and managed to get out of the way,” and self-treated at home, according to Police Commissioner Andrew Coster at a press conference on Saturday.

Coster said there had been nothing unusual about the suspect’s routine before the attack on Friday, and in fact “some of his actions suggested he was planning for the future.”

He added that the man “demonstrated a high level of paranoia about surveillance activity,” which had been running for more than 50 days, and that maintaining the cover of surveillance teams was made more difficult due to the fact that Auckland is currently under Covid-19 lockdown and there are fewer people out in public areas such as the supermarket at which Friday’s incident occurred.

The man police shot dead was a 32-year-old Sri Lankan national who arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa.

“It was not known that he held extreme views about violence and terrorism at that time,” Ardern said Saturday, revealing his criminal history.

He came to the attention of police in 2016 after he “expressed sympathy on Facebook for recent terrorist attacks, violent war-related videos, and comments advocating violent extremism,” she added.

The following year he was arrested at Auckland International Airport as police believed he was heading to Syria.

From then and over the next years, he was charged on various occasions with a raft of offenses including possessing objectionable material, possessing an offensive weapon, and assaulting corrections officers.

In May 2021, he was convicted for possession of objectionable material, and in July, having spent three years in custody awaiting his trials, he was sentenced to 12 months’ supervision under strict conditions.

GPS monitoring was “sought by the Crown but this was not imposed by the courts,” and he had also refused to undergo a psychological assessment, Ardern said.

“All legal avenues to continue his detention had been exhausted,” she said, adding that in July he was released into the community, and surveillance began.

Ardern said in recent months the government had been working to hurry through changes to terrorism laws, aiming to make planning and preparing for a terror attack illegal, and now wants to get it done by the end of the month.

The Sri Lankan cannot yet be named due to a suppression order, however Ardern said “this is not something I had any intention of sharing, regardless.”

“No terrorist, whether alive or deceased, deserves their name to be shared for the infamy they were seeking,” she said, taking the same line as she did with the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooter.

In March of that year, Australian Brenton Tarrant carried out a far-right terror attack against the two mosques, leaving 51 people dead.

He was sentenced in August 2020 to life imprisonment without parole on 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism. EFE


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