- New Zealand has been trying for years to deport a man who injured seven people in a mass stabbing, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
- He was previously arrested twice, and police found ISIS propaganda in his apartment both times.
- The man was appealing his deportation and authorities were legally unable to keep in him jail.
New Zealand had been trying for years to deport an ISIS supporter who injured seven people in a supermarket stabbing spree last week, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference on Saturday.
Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, a 32-year-old ethnic minority Tamil from Sri Lanka, had been served a deportation notice in 2019 after his refugee status was revoked, said Ardern, but a drawn-out legal process allowed him to remain in New Zealand even while authorities knew he intended on carrying out a terror attack.
He grabbed a knife from a supermarket shelf on Friday and attacked seven victims, placing three in critical condition, before being shot dead by police who were monitoring him.
Samsudeen arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa seeking refugee status, which he was granted in 2013, per court documents made public on Sunday.
He became a person of national security interest in 2016 after uthorities noticed him sympathizing on Facebook with terrorist attacks and violent extremism, according to court documents.
During their investigation, authorities also discovered that Samsudeen’s refugee claim was based on a fraudulent document, prompting them to revoke his refugee status, according to Ardern.
Court documents also show that Samsudeen was arrested in May 2017 at the Auckland International airport when police believed he was about to fly to Syria. Police searched his apartment and found a hunting knife and ISIS propaganda.
According to the NZ Herald, Samsudeen had told a fellow worshipper at a mosque he would commit a “lone wolf” terrorist attack if he was unable to go to Syria.
He was later released on bail, but was arrested again in August 2018 after purchasing another knife. Police also found more material relating to ISIS propaganda in his apartment.
Samsudeen was served a deportation notice while in jail. He appealed against it under New Zealand’s Immigration Act, saying he would face “arrest, detention, mistreatment, and torture” if he were to be sent back to Sri Lanka.
In July 2021, he finished his sentence related to the 2018 arrest and was released while awaiting his deportation appeal. New Zealand’s immigration agency wanted to keep him in jail, concerned that he would be a risk to the community, according to Ardern.
“It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when legal advice came back to say this wasn’t an option,” she said. Because of his appeal and circumstances, Samsudeen was likely to be considered a “protected person” under the country’s Immigraton Act.
Authorities also knew that Samsudeen wanted to carry out a terrorist attack and looked into charging him under the country’s 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act, but the charges were rejected because planning an attack isn’t a crime in New Zealand.
“Agencies used every tool available to protect innocent people from this individual,” said Ardern. “Every legal avenue was tried.”
After his release, authorities ordered police to monitor him constantly, deploying 30 officers to watch him for 50 days until the attack happened, reported The Guardian.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster said at the Saturday press conference that the officers monitoring Samsudeen kept their distance from him because he had a “high level of paranoia” toward their surveillance, and therefore took two minutes to get to him after he started his stabbing attack.
Ardern said her government is pushing for a new anti-terrorism law that will broaden the definition of terrorist activity and criminalize the planning of terror attacks. She also said that the attack on Friday should not be pinned on any one community.
“It was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who was gripped by ideology that is not supported here by anyone or any community,” she said.
“He alone carries the responsibility for these acts. Let that be where the judgment falls.”