Six people have been injured in what the Prime Minister called a terror attack at a Countdown in New Lynn, committed by a man who was “Isis-inspired” and was killed at the scene

A known extremist was responsible for a terror attack in Auckland which has seen six people injured, three of whom are in critical condition, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday evening.

The man was shot and killed by members of a police Special Tactics Group within 60 seconds of the attack beginning, Ardern said. He was a Sri Lankan national who came to New Zealand in October 2011 and has been considered a “person of national security interest” from 2016.

Ardern said she was limited in what more she could share about the man as a result of suppression orders made by the court, although a spokesman for the Prime Minister later confirmed the Crown was “seeking the court’s urgent lifting of the suppression orders, which will be filed this [Friday] evening”.

She did say he was “ISIS-inspired” and a “violent extremist”. She said she was personally aware of the man prior to the attack. She was confident just one person was involved.

Police at the scene of the attack in New Lynn, Auckland. Photo: RNZ/Veronica Schmidt

He had been monitored by police surveillance teams and a special tactical team at all times. He travelled from his home in Glen Eden to the New Lynn Countdown on Friday afternoon for what appeared to be a regular shopping trip. Once in the store, at around 2:40pm, he obtained a knife and began the attack, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

Within around 60 seconds of the attack beginning, Coster said, members of the Special Tactics Group had killed him. They were close enough to him to hear when the “commotion” began. None of those injured were believed to be police officers or mall or supermarket staff, Coster said. The only firearms involved were those used by police.

“What happened today was despicable, it was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who is gripped by an ideology that is not supported here by anyone,” Ardern said.

Due to the suppression orders, Ardern said she was unable to provide information about any past criminal history.

“By law, we could not keep him in prison,” she said.

The New Zealand Herald is reporting that the man was previously arrested for allegedly planning a terror attack.

However, New Zealand’s terrorism laws do not currently criminalise planning an attack. One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attack was that this should be rectified. In April, the Labour Government introduced counter-terrorism legislation to the House which would make it illegal to plan a terror attack and give authorities greater powers to limit movements and actions of terror suspects. The bill is still in select committee.

According to the Herald report, the man was only prosecuted on lesser charges of possessing Isis propaganda that had been deemed objectionable. The Crown had sought to prosecute him for planning a “lone wolf” knife attack, but a High Court judge ruled this was not barred by terrorism laws.

The man was arrested at Auckland Airport in May 2017, the Herald reported, after booking a one-way ticket to Singapore. Police found a hunting knife and material that glorified violence.

He pleaded guilty to distributing restricted material and was released in August 2018. The day after he was released, he bought another hunting knife and was arrested again.

The Herald reported he was most recently released on supervision after a jury found him guilty of possessing the Isis propaganda in May of this year.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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