© Reuters. The police responded to the scene of an attack where a man was shot and killed by the police after wounding many people in a shopping mall in Auckland, New Zealand on September 3, 2021. Stuff Limited/Ricky Wilson via Reuters
Author: Pravin Menon
Wellington (Reuters)-New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed on Saturday to tighten anti-terrorism laws this month after authorities were aware of a knife-wielding militant who stabbed and wounded a supermarket 7 people.
The police shot and killed the 32-year-old Sri Lankan national. He was convicted and imprisoned for about three years before being released in July, shortly after he launched an assassination spree on Friday.
Ardern said earlier that the man was inspired by the Islamic State militant group and had been under surveillance, but could no longer be held in prison by law.
“I promise that once Parliament is restored, we will complete this work-which means passing the law as soon as possible, no later than the end of this month,” Ardern said at a press conference.
The anti-terrorism legislation bill criminalizes plans and preparations that may lead to terrorist attacks, thereby closing the loopholes critics say that allow planners to go unpunished.
But Ardern said it is unfair to assume that stricter laws will have an impact in this situation.
“This is an aggressive person who uses the supermarket as a shield to attack. This is a very difficult environment,” she said.
Ardern said the attacker attracted the attention of the police in 2016 because he supported a violent ideology inspired by the Islamic State.
When he entered the Countdown supermarket in Auckland’s New Lynn shopping mall, the police were following the man. They said they thought he had gone in to buy something, but he took a knife from the display rack and started to stab people.
Police said they shot him within a minute after the attack began.
Ardern said the man arrived in New Zealand on a student visa in 2011 and did not have any extreme views.
In 2016, after he expressed sympathy for radical attacks, violent war-related videos and comments advocating violent extremism on Facebook (NASDAQ:), he attracted the attention of the police.
In May 2017, he was arrested at Oakland Airport and the authorities believed he was heading to Syria. He was charged for being restricted from publishing, and a hunting knife was found in his home, but he was released on bail.
In August 2018, he was arrested again for buying a knife and imprisoned. Ardern said he was released into the community in July this year when the surveillance began.
Ardern heard a briefing on the case again in late July and late August, and officials including the chief of police proposed the possibility of speeding up the amendment to the anti-terrorism legislation.
Ardern said she wanted to explain why the assailant was not deported, but could not, because doing so would violate the court’s prohibition order, which also prevented her from identifying him, she said.
But she said she didn’t want to name him anyway.
She said: “No terrorist, whether in life or death, should not be shared with their names because of the shame they seek.”
Countdown, a New Zealand supermarket group, said on Saturday that it had removed knives and scissors from its shelves while considering whether to continue selling.
“We want all our teams to feel safe when they go to work,” Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s safety general manager, said in a media statement.
According to media reports, other supermarket chains have also removed sharp knives from their shelves.