LynnMall stabbings a 'terrorist attack' by a 'known threat to NZ' - PM

8:21 pm on 3 September 2021

The man shot dead by police in today's terror attack in Auckland that left six people injured has been under the watch of authorities since 2016, the government revealed today.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The man stabbed and injured six people, three critically, at the LynnMall Countdown in the suburb of New Lynn this afternoon.

Within 60 seconds he was shot and killed by police.

At a press conference late this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the attack at the New Lynn Countdown supermarket today was a terrorist attack carried out by a violent extremist.

Watch the media conference here:

St John said three patients in a critical condition and one patient in a serious condition have been taken to Auckland City Hospital; one patient in a moderate condition has been taken to Waitakere hospital; and one patient in a moderate condition has been taken to Middlemore Hospital.

Ardern revealed the terrorist is a Sri Lankan national who arrived in New Zealand in October 2011 and he became a person of national security interest from 2016.

The reasons he is known to agencies is subject to suppression orders, but Ardern said it was her view that it was in the public interest to share as much information as possible.

The prime minister did say the terrorist held a violent ideology inspired by the Islamic State, but it would be wrong to direct any frustration at anyone other than this individual. She said she was personally aware of the terrorist before today's attack.

Ardern said it was a senseless attack and she was sorry it happened.

"What happened today was despicable. It was carried out by an individual."

Ardern said the individual was under constant monitoring, and he was shot and killed with in 60 seconds of the attack starting.

The police team who was monitoring shot and killed him.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the man was under heavy surveillance because of concerns about his ideology.

The attacker was observed leaving his Glen Eden property and travelling to the supermarket, as he had done previously without incident, Coster said.

He entered the store and obtained a knife from within the store before starting the attack.

In a statement this evening, Coster said the man charged at police with the knife when confronted and officers shot him. He died at the scene shortly afterwards.

"Police are not seeking anyone else in relation to this event and we are confident this man acted alone," he added.

"Our Police staff acted quickly and with great courage to stop this man and prevent any further harm to members of the public.

I want to acknowledge this quick response and the bravery of the Police staff who responded."

Coster said the surveillance teams were "as close as they possibly could be without compromising the surveillance".

"I acknowledge that this situation raises questions about whether police could have done more, whether police could have intervened more quickly. I'm satisfied based on the information available to me that the staff involved did not only what we expect they would do in this situation, but did it with great courage.

"The reality is, that when you are surveilling someone on a 24/7 basis, it is not possible to be immediately next to them at all times. The staff intervened as quickly as they could and they prevented further injury in what was a terrifying situation," Coster said.

Ardern said all legal and surveillance power has been used to try to keep people safe from this individual.

"What I can say is that we have utilized every legal and surveillance power available to us to try and keep people safe from this individual. Many agencies and people were involved and all were motivated by the same thing - trying to keep people safe."

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Coster said there had been nothing that would tell police the extent of his intentions, or that he intended to do this today.

He said the individual was very surveillance-conscious, and surveillance teams needed to maintain a distance to be effective.

"There was nothing to prevent him being in the community and we were doing absolutely everything possible to monitor him and indeed the fact that we were able to intervene so quickly - in roughly 60 seconds - shows just how closely we were watching him."

Ardern said the local Muslim community has been "nothing but helpful and supportive. It would be wrong to direct any frustration to anyone beyond this individual. That is who is culpable, that is who is responsible - no one else".

"If we'd reached a threshold for him to be in prison, he would have been in prison. If he'd committed a criminal act that would have allowed him to be in prison, that's where he would have been. Unfortunately, he didn't. That is why, instead, he was being monitored constantly and followed."

Coster said nothing that had occurred today had given authorities any reason to believe there is any further threat to the public.

Two officers were involved in the shooting but Coster said he did not know how many shots were fired.

Ardern wrapped up today's conference by assuring the New Zealand public that she will share more information as soon as it is available.

"To everyone who was there and who witnesses such a horrific event, I can't imagine how you are feeling but thank you for rushing to the aid of the people who needed you."

An eyewitness has told RNZ she saw a man running around armed with a knife and heard many people screaming.

Another shopper who was in the supermarket at the time heard someone scream before shoppers started running towards the door.

Heavily armed police and ambulances remain at the scene.