Six people were injured in New Zealand, three of them in serious condition, after a man stabbed them in a shopping center on Friday (3), in an act that the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, called support ideological to the Islamic State (EI) terrorist group.
According to information provided by Ardern, the attacker, a Sri Lankan citizen who has been on New Zealand territory since 2011, had been monitored by the country’s security for at least five years. The man, who was not identified, was killed by police shortly after the attack, carried out in the city of Auckland.
“A violent extremist has launched a terrorist attack against innocent people in New Zealand,” Ardern said. “What happened today was despicable, hateful and wrong,” the prime minister said, adding that the episode should be understood as an individual act, not an example of faith or culture.
A witness to the attack told the local New Zealand Herald that the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greater in Arabic) at the time of the attack. Another person present, Michelle Miller described the man as “running like a lunatic”. “All I heard was a lot of screaming.”
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the man was acting alone and that there were no more threats to the public. He was being followed by police officers, so it was possible to stop the attack about 60 seconds after it started, according to Coster’s information. “It shows how closely we were watching him.”
The reasons why the attacker was being monitored by the New Zealand government are under judicial secrecy, said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Asked what led the man to remain free, even though he was considered a threat to national security, she explained that he had not committed crimes and therefore could not be in prison. “He was constantly being monitored and followed.”
Information obtained by the New Zealand Herald reveals that the attacker was a 32-year-old man known only as “S” and who was recently arrested by police for allegedly planning a “lone wolf” terrorist attack — when the attack is organized by individuals no hierarchical relationship with terrorist organizations, even though they share fundamentalist ideologies.
Also according to the newspaper, the man was considered a threat after twice buying large hunting knives and possessing Islamic State videos.
Auckland, where the attack took place, is experiencing a new outbreak of coronavirus driven by the more contagious delta variant and is under severe lockdown, with only supermarkets and other essential businesses open.
Considered an example in the fight against the pandemic, New Zealand is witnessing a resurgence of cases of the disease. The country, which had been virtually virus-free for six months, with no cases of local transmission and a scenario similar to the pre-coronavirus world, saw the situation change on Aug. 7, when an infected passenger from Sydney sparked the current outbreak. .
This Friday’s attack revives traumatic memories in the country. Just over two years ago, in March 2019, shooting attacks on two mosques in the city of Christchurch left 51 dead and at least 42 wounded by gunfire, including children.
The massacre was broadcast live for 17 minutes by the internet sniper, who published a manifesto after the attack, in which he called immigrants “invaders”.