Sep 4, 2021 - World

New Zealand to criminalize terror attack planning after mall stabbing

 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a Saturday press conference in Parliament  in Wellington, New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a Saturday press conference in Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Mark Mitchell — Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand officials tried "for years" to deport the terrorist who stabbed shoppers in an Auckland supermarket Friday before being fatally shot by police who were surveilling him, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Driving the news: Ardern vowed Saturday to tighten NZ's security laws by the month's end following the attack by the "ISIS-inspired" Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, 32 — who was fighting to stay in NZ as a refugee when he injured seven shoppers, three critically.

Why it matters: Among the changes the Counter Terror Legislation Bill would implement would be the criminalizing of the planning and preparation of a potential terrorist attack, addressing a loophole critics said allowed suspects to remain free — including the LynnMall supermarket attacker.

  • Ardern said he was being constantly monitored because he couldn't legally be imprisoned and, consequently, nearby police responded quickly when the attack happened.

The big picture: The attacker came to security services' attention in 2016. Prosecutors wanted to charge him under terrorism laws for planning an attack last year, but a judge ruled this wasn't covered by existing legislation.

  • His name, the fact he was a refugee and that officials were trying to have this status revoked could not be previously reported due to a court suppression order, which was lifted Saturday night.
  • He spent three years in prison after being charged with offenses including possessing hunting knives and objectionable publications. He was released from prison two months ago.

What they're saying: Officials had been trying since 2018 to deport him back to Sri Lanka after learning that his refugee status "was fraudulently obtained," and sought to detain him ahead of a hearing later this year, Ardern said in a statement Sunday.

  • "It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when legal advice came back to say this wasn't an option," she added.
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