TERROR ATTACK LATEST
* Seven people injured: 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
* Timeline to terror: Mall attacker’s history in NZ
* 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?
Police have released the ages of the victims injured in Friday’s terrorist attack in Auckland.
They are four women aged 29, 43, 60 and 66, and three men aged 53, 57 and 77.
Five people are in hospital, three of whom 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 at Countdown in New Lynn.
Initially, it was understood only six people had been injured. Overnight on Friday, police learned of a seventh person who had narrowly missed being stabbed by the 32-year-old man. He received a minor injury which he treated at home.
“This man narrowly avoided more serious injury when he evaded the attacker,”Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.
Five of the six victims in hospital were stabbed, and one had suffered a dislocated shoulder.
“Our thoughts remain with the victims of this horrific attack and their loved ones, who will be suffering great anguish.”
Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Coster released further details about the attack.
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 via train 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.
“The surveillance team following him observed him taking a trolley at the supermarket and begin shopping as we had observed him doing on previous occasions,” Coster said.
“He was shopping as normal for approximately 10 minutes before the attack started.”
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 heard shouts and saw people running and responded within 60 seconds, shooting the man.
The 10 minutes in the supermarket before the attack, either indicated he was “very clever in the way he planned it”, or “opportunistic and did it at short notice” – but “we may never know the answer”.
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.
“I want to reaffirm that our police staff showed great bravery and professionalism in their response to this attack.”
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.
“I also want to acknowledge those other people caught up in the attack – the staff at Countdown LynnMall and other members of the public who were present, either in the supermarket or in the surrounding mall area.
“This will have been an incredibly shocking and distressing event for all involved.”
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 the attack.
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.
Ardern said she would not be mentioning the attacker’s 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.
• Anyone who witnessed the incident who has not yet spoken to Police is asked to get in touch via 105, quoting Operation Rally. Police would also like to hear from anyone who has photos or videos.
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