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Illustration by Security Management

Police Kill Extremist who Stabbed Six People in Grocery Store Attack

A man that officials said was inspired by ISIS stabbed six people in an Auckland, New Zealand, grocery store before being shot and killed by a police surveillance team.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the man a “violent extremist” who attacked “innocent New Zealanders” at approximately 2:40 p.m. local time on Friday. Three of the victims are critically injured, two are in moderate condition, and one is in serious condition; the names of the victims had not been released as of Security Management’s press time. 

Ardern did not name the attacker but did confirm that he was a Sri Lankan national who came to New Zealand in 2011. He was a “person of interest” and had been under surveillance by the Special Tactics Group and police since 2016. 

“The individual was under constant monitoring and it was the police surveillance team and special tactics group who were part of that monitoring who shot and killed him within—I’m told—the space of roughly 60 seconds of the attack starting,” Ardern said in a press briefing.

Andrew Coster, commissioner of New Zealand Police, said the attacker traveled from his home to a Countdown grocery store in New Lynn—a district of Auckland—as he had done before. The man entered the store, obtained a knife, began attacking, and was taken down by two members of the surveillance team.

“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,” Coster said. “The staff intervened as quickly as they could and they prevented further injury in what was a terrifying situation.” 

All evidence obtained so far says the attacker acted alone and poses no further danger to the community, according to the BBC.

Ardern said there will be inquiries in the aftermath of the attack to provide additional insights. The attack marks the second supermarket stabbing in New Zealand this year, following a stabbing that injured four people in May in Dunedin.

In that incident, a 42-year-old man stabbed four people and injured several others before being taken down and detained by supermarket staff and customers. Authorities said they did not have any evidence that suggested the attack was an act of domestic terrorism.

The potential for lone actors to engage in violence has been under scrutiny in New Zealand since 2019 when a right-wing extremist opened fire on two Christchurch mosques, killing 51 people and injuring dozens more before being arrested. The gunman eventually pled guilty to the murder of 51 people, attempted murder of 40, and a charge of terrorism. He was sentenced to life in prison in August 2020.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings, New Zealand established a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate what happened and possible failure points. The commission released its report in December 2020—nearly two years after the attacks—that called out failings, intelligence, gaps, and unbalanced priorities that led agencies to miss potential signs of an attack. 

“New Zealand will never be immune from violent extremism and terrorism,” the report said. “Even with the best systems in the world, a determined would-be terrorist could carry out an attack in New Zealand in the future. But there is much that the government can do, starting with a greater commitment to transparency and openness with New Zealanders.”

New Zealand’s government accepted all 44 recommendations the commission made, including establishing a new national intelligence and security agency, tightening firearms laws, and strengthening counterterrorism laws.