Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took aim at a “violent extremist” who stabbed and wounded six people with a knife in a New Zealand supermarket on Friday, the country’s second attack in two-and-a-half years.
The New Zealand prime minister described the incident as a “terrorist attack” after a Sri Lankan national wounded civilians in Auckland.
She added that she had been “absolutely gutted” to hear about the incident.
Ardern continued: “What happened today was despicable.”
She was also keen to keep blame solely on the individual responsible, saying: “It was hateful, it was wrong, it was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person.”
Ardern said the attacker, who was not identified, was “obviously a supporter of ISIS ideology,” in reference to the Islamic State terror group.
Friday’s attacker had been in New Zealand for a decade. He had been under constant surveillance for the last five years due to concerns about his ideology, according to the prime minister.
He was on a terror watchlist and was known to multiple agencies.
Police were following the man and initially thought he was going into the supermarket to do some shopping. The individual allegedly picked up a knife from a supermarket display before “running around like a lunatic,” shopper Michelle Miller told the Stuff news outlet.
Police managed to shoot and kill the man 60 seconds once he initiated the attack.
Three out of the six people he wounded were in critical condition. One was in a serious condition while the remaining two were in moderate condition.
An affiliate of ISIS recently made headlines around the world for killing more than 100 people outside Afghanistan’s Kabul airport in two suicide bombings.
New Zealand last experienced a terror attack in March 2019, when a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.
Ardern gained worldwide respect when she showed great compassion for the victims and their families.
At the time, The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor claimed that “Ardern has become the face of her nation’s sorrow and grief and its resolve.”
The prime minister has said it was not clear if the recent attack was an act of revenge for the mosque shootings.
Even so, the stabbings have now prompted widespread questions as to why the individual was able to roam around New Zealand freely if he was under surveillance.
Ardern said: “If he had committed a criminal act that would have allowed him to be in prison, that’s where he would have been.
“Unfortunately he didn’t … instead he was being monitored constantly, constantly, and followed.”
Gamal Fouda, imam of the Al Noor mosque and main target of the 2019 attacks, told Reuters: “We are broken-hearted but we are not broken again … we stand with the victims of the horrible incident.”
Hitting back at criticism over the police response, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said officers had not been able to act more quickly because they needed to maintain a distance in order to be effective.
He said: “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.”
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