The ISIS-inspired “lone wolf” shot dead by police after carrying out a frenzied knife rampage in a New Zealand supermarket had been watched by police for years, it has been revealed.
Known only as ‘S’, 32, he was being monitored 24/7 at the very moment he entered the store at an Auckland shopping mall, grabbed a knife from a shelf, and began attacking shoppers, police say.
Terrified shoppers ran screaming before officers tailing the attacker closed in – shooting him dead within 60 seconds as victims lay bloodied on the shop floor.
Three victims are fighting for their lives in hospital after the attack at the supermarket in New Lynn, where Aucklanders had been going about their daily essential shop under a fresh new Covid lockdown.
Chilling pictures of the attacker have now emerged – including one showing him posing with an air rifle police found in a series of raids triggered by his sinister online activity.
The extremist was a “lone wolf’ who carried out an “ISIS-inspired” terror attack motivated by a “violent ideology”, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference.
Police confirmed they had been monitoring the Sri Lankan national for years.
New Zealand media revealed the 32-year-old couldn’t be kept behind bars after a bid to prosecute him under the country’s terror laws found no means to jail him for planning an attack.
According to a New Zealand Herald profile of the attacker, who can not yet be identified for legal reasons, ‘S’ was considered by authorities to be a threat to public safety after twice buying large hunting knives and possessing ISIS videos.
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He had been in New Zealand for 10 years and was reportedly being “monitored constantly” over his “staunchly anti-Western and violent” posts on social media.
The newspaper reports he had caught authorities’ attention as far back as 2016, in repeated anti-western and violent social media posts, including voicing support for ISIS terror attacks in Europe.
But the authorities had struggled to keep him caged ahead of Friday’s devastating attack.
According to the newspaper, ‘S’ was convicted of possessing propaganda-style material supportive of Islamic State just this May after prosecutors were unable to convict him on more serious terror charges.
He was reportedly cleared of other charges of possessing a graphic video depicting a prisoner being decapitated and possession of an offensive weapon.
The trial was reportedly told of his sinister internet searches – including for videos detailing how to make explosives, “lone-wolf mujahideen”, searches for a a hunting knife, camouflage pants, ISIS garb, and NZ prison clothes and food.
During his trial, ‘S’ is said to have told the jury: “You’re worried about one knife, I am telling you I will buy 10 knives. It’s about my rights.”
He was reportedly sentenced to one year of supervision, which was to be served at an Auckland mosque.
‘S’ remained under constant police surveillance, and authorities reportedly found he had been researching another New Zealand based ISIS supporter.
Despite being given a formal warning by police, he is reported to have at one point posted on Facebook threatening to return to Sri Lanka and “find Kiwi scums”.
According to police, ‘S’ told a fellow worshipper at a mosque that he planned to join ISIS in Syria, and he was detained at an airport after booking a one-way ticket to Singapore.
A raid at his apartment reportedly uncovered material glorifying violence, images of him posing with an air rifle, and a huge hunting knife hidden under his mattress.
He eventually pleaded guilty to charges of distributing restricted material, but because of the amount of time he had already spent behind bars waiting to answer the charges, a judge sentenced him to supervision in 2018.
According to the Herald, the day after he was released from custody he purchased another hunting knife and counterterrorism police monitoring him arrested him again.
Cops alsoraided his apartment again and found more violent material, including a graphic ISIS video about how to kill “non-believers” showing a masked man cutting a prisoner’s throat and wrists.
A High Court judge rejected an attempt to charge him under terror laws, finding no provision in New Zealand’s existing legislation to prosecute him for planning or preparing an attack.
Police were forced to keep him under constant surveillance instead, and were tailing him as he entered the supermarket at LynnMall on Friday afternoon and grabbed a knife off a shelf.
“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,” Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told a press briefing.
The attack has shocked a country where terror attacks are extraordinarily rare. The nation is still reeling from the aftermath of the 2019’s Christchurch massacre.
A white supremacist was jailed for life after murdering 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in the country’s deadliest ever mass shooting.