Auckland mall terrorist attack: Police officers waited at Countdown supermarket entrance – up to two and a half minutes between first stabbing, fatal shooting

TERROR ATTACK LATEST
* Seven people were injured in yesterday’s attacks. Five are in hospital – three critically hurt – and two are recovering at home
* The attack lasted up to two and a half minutes before the man was shot by police
* Alert level restrictions meant less people were in the supermarket, making the “highly paranoid” man hard to follow closely
* He had been tailed for 53 days, involving up to 30 police officers
* More details will be released once suppression lapses overnight tonight although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will never say his name
* Auckland mall terrorist attack won’t be last in New Zealand, expert says
* Five years of surveillance to a few minutes of horror: Terror in the supermarket aisle
* Judge lifts suppression for Auckland mall ‘Lone Wolf’ – why details can’t be published yet
* Parliament will soon consider fixing a 19-year flaw in our terrorism laws – but will it make us any safer?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster have released further details about yesterday’s terrorist attack in Auckland which left seven people injured, five of whom are in hospital.

Three of the five hospitalised are in a critical condition, the remaining two are recovering at home after a Sri Lankan national under heavy police surveillance carried out a knife attack in a New Lynn supermarket.

Initially, it was understood only six people had been injured. Overnight, police learned of a seventh person who had narrowly missed being stabbed by the 32-year-old man, but still received injuries as a result of the incident.

How the attack unfolded

While a timeline of yesterday’s attack was still being formed, Coster said there was no indication an attack was imminent when the man arrived at the supermarket at 2.20pm.

Police officers tailing the man, as part of heavy surveillance which had been in place for 53 days, were unable to follow him closely due to the low number of people in the supermarket under alert level 4 restrictions. They waited near the entrance of the supermarket.

Based on CCTV footage, Coster said the attack – which involved the man taking a kitchen knife off a shelf – lasted between 60-90 seconds. Officers responded about 60 seconds after that and shot the man.

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He said long-term surveillance was very difficult, but it was performed by qualified individuals.

“Surveillance is different from a security detail.

“These are highly-trained specialists … they are very good at what they do.”

Coster claimed the man was “highly paranoid”, employed counter-surveillance measures and had challenged members of the public he believed were following him.

Coster said the officers shot to incapacitate, but he was confident they acted as they were expected to.

“We don’t execute. What we do is remove the threat.”

He said there was no evidence any of the victims’ injuries came from anyone other than the terrorist.

Coster credited those who aided the victims and said police presence would be increased at certain locations, including supermarkets, to reassure the public they were safe.

There was no evidence to suggest the attack was triggered by a past event or that there was any further threat to the public. Police were not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident.

New Zealand’s terror threat remained at medium, despite yesterday’s incident.

The terrorist's history in NZ

Ardern gave further information about the man’s journey in Aotearoa after he arrived in October, 2011 as a 22-year-old, travelling on a student visa.

His “extreme” views were not known to officials until 2016, when he commented on social media regarding a bombing event in Europe. He was spoken to by police twice that year – in April and May.

The man was arrested in May 2017 at Auckland Airport where it was believed he was heading to Syria.

He has been charged multiple times for possessing hunting knives and objectionable publications. The man also assaulted Correction officers during his time in custody.

However, the man was released from prison in July this year after officials exhausted means to keep him in custody.

“Throughout this period officials met a number of times to consider what avenues could be pursued to address the risk posed by this individual and to prepare for the potential that we may run out of legal avenues to detain him,” Ardern said of earlier this year.

More details – including information on his immigration status – would be released tomorrow following the likely lapsing of suppression orders later tonight.

However, Ardern said she would not be mentioninghis name anyway, even after suppression lifted, in an effort to reduce the spread of his ideology.

On July 6, he was sentenced to 12 months’ supervision. GPS tracking was sought but denied by the courts.

He also refused a psychological assessment, Coster describing the man as “uncooperative”.

In late August, Ardern said officials including Coster had met to discuss expediting passage of the Counter Terrorism Legislation Bill within 48 hours of their discussion, and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi then contacted the select committee chair to discuss speeding up passage of the bill.

Ardern, who had known about the man for some time alongside certain ministers, said any holes in counter-terrorism legislation would be addressed by the end of the month.

However, she said it wasn’t fair to assume the law change would have prevented the man from being released back into the community.

Ardern was adamant every legal avenue had been explored in an effort to keep the man in custody.

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