Neighbourhood shocked LynnMall terrorist was living among them

8:36 pm on 6 September 2021

Neighbours of the LynnMall terrorist are shocked such a dangerous individual was living in their west Auckland street and question why the authorities allowed it.

Police on guard at Masjid-E-Bilal mosque in Glen Eden, west Auckland - 4 September 2021

Photo: RNZ / Jean Bell

Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen was living in the annex of Masjid-e-Bilal, a small Islamic Centre, since his release from prison in July. Residents there are worried about a backlash and the president of the Muslim Association wants answers.

The centre in Glen Eden was cordoned off yesterday, but today the police tape was gone.

Blair, who lives and runs a plastic recycling business there, described a close encounter with the terrorist. He noticed something unusual when his outdoor sensor lights went on.

"The man in question was here two Saturdays ago at 6:30 in the morning on my seat and I chased him off," he said.

Blair said he only realised Friday's attacker was the man who lived nearby when Samsudeen was pictured on television, neighbours had no idea.

"Not happy that we weren't informed in the street that we had a bad case here," he said.

Another neighbour, who also runs a business in the street, said the authorities have let them down by housing a known threat there.

He said the area could have been placed in danger.

"We have workers on site he could have just walked down here, so we would not know so. At least if we had some warning we could have taken some precautions. I think it's unfair just to put that in the middle of our community."

Muslim woman Sabila lives close by with her family. She doesn't pray at the centre as it's men-only. On Friday, she saw police cars on her street and was shocked to find out what had happened on the news.

"As Muslims, we condemn that attack. As a Muslim, we're not allowed to kill a human being. If we kill one human being, it's like we kill the entire human being on Earth."

Sabila said she feels the street is safe but she has heard about racism towards some Muslims since the attack and is calling for understanding.

"If you have a Muslim neighbour, talk to them, get to know them. They're not like the terrorist."

Her husband Wawan Ruswana prays daily at the centre but he didn't know Samsudeen.

He worried that some people here might view Muslims differently in the light of the attack, as he and his wife have been subjected to racism before - including after the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015.

"It's not only first time, second time or the third time that she's been spat on... they just called her terrorist straight away without, you know, knowing her... or say go back to your country," he said.

Ruswana has a simple message.

"Love each other, be humble, it doesn't matter what happened," he said.

Muslim Association president Ikhlaq Kashkari said police and Corrections were in talks with the association since 2018 about guidance and counselling for Samsudeen while he was in custody and upon his release.

However, he did not know until Friday that the attacker had been living in an apartment belonging to Masjid-e-Bilal since July, when he was released from prison.

"Glen Eden mosque is a very small Islamic centre and it does not have capability and capacity in my view to be able to support something like this, so I'd really like to understand the rationale and logic behind Corrections deciding to go to Glen Eden mosque," he said.

"That absolutely baffled me and it's hard to accept. I think there's more to it than what's been said in public."

Kashkari said faith has nothing to do with Friday's attack and the Muslim community stands with the victims.

Corrections has been approached for comment.

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