The 32-year-old man obtained a knife within the store in the Auckland suburb of New Lynn and used it to stab shoppers before police shot him, according to authorities, who have called it a “terrorist attack.”
Five people remain in hospital — including three in a critical condition — Ardern said at a press conference Saturday.
A suppression order concealing the man’s name and other details from the public has now been lifted, after it was challenged by the New Zealand government. However, those details cannot be made public before Sunday, after a court gave the man’s family a 24-hour window to seek new suppression orders.
The attacker, described as a “supporter of ISIS ideology,” spent three years in jail after being charged multiple times for possessing hunting knives and objectionable publications, Ardern said.
The man, a Sri Lanka national, arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa. He first came to the attention of police in 2016, after posting comments advocating violent extremism on social media.
He was initially arrested at Auckland airport in 2017, believed to be on his way to Syria. Police also found “restricted publications” and a hunting knife in his apartment. He was charged with possessing the items, pleaded guilty and released on bail.
But he was arrested again in 2018 for buying a knife while on bail. A subsequent police search found more “objectionable or extremist materials” at his home.
He faced additional charges and was kept in custody until July this year, when he was sentenced to 12 months of “supervision with special conditions” for possessing objectionable materials and failing to assist the police in exercising search powers. Arden said prosecutors had run out of legal avenues to keep him detained.
During his time in custody, he assaulted corrections officers, Arden added.
Police had kept the man under constant surveillance since his release, requiring up to 30 police officers at any one time, Arden said.
Ardern said she had received briefings about the threat the man posed in July — and again in August.
At the press conference, Ardern also vowed to tighten counter-terrorism laws this month.
In August, Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi pursued a change in the country’s terror law to make it illegal to plan a terror attack, even if the attack is not carried out.
“As soon as Parliament resumes, we will complete that work. That means working to pass the law as soon as possible and no later than the end of this month,” Ardern said.