Suspect Who Stabbed 6 in New Zealand Supermarket Terror Attack ID'd as Sri Lankan Refugee

The suspect who stabbed at least six people at a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand, was identified as Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan refugee.

The 32-year-old reportedly came to New Zealand in 2011 and gained his refugee status two years later, the New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday.

Samsudeen, a man reportedly inspired by the Islamic State ideology, entered a Countdown supermarket in Lynn Mall in Auckland on Friday and stabbed six people within 60 seconds before police shot him dead.

Like other shoppers, Samsudeen wheeled in a shopping cart into the supermarket, the police said in a statement. He then grabbed a kitchen knife from a shelf at the store and started stabbing people, including four women and three men. People stabbed included a 29-year old woman and a 77-year-old man.

The police on Saturday told Newsweek that three of the victims with critical injuries remained in the Auckland City hospital on Saturday but are in a stable condition, while one other person with non-critical wounds remained stable.

A seventh victim is now recovering at home after being discharged from Middlemore Hospital. The man was able to "narrowly" dodge Samsudeen's attack, avoiding a serious injury, the police added.

"A violent extremist undertook a terrorist attack on innocent New Zealanders," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press briefing on Friday.

"This was someone who was known to our national security agencies and was of concern and was being monitored constantly. There are very few that fall into this category," Ardern added.

Immigration officers wanted to revoke Samsudeen's refugee status in 2018, according to The Herald, but he made an appeal and a final decision was yet to be made of whether he would be deported.

Samsudeen was only identified on Saturday because of a New Zealand law that prevented identifying anyone claiming refugee status.

Ardern on Friday described Samsudeen as a "lone wolf" and said that his terrorist act "was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith. He alone carries the responsibility for these acts."

During the news briefing on Friday, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said that the authorities were confident that there is no further threat to public safety.

"We were doing absolutely everything possible to monitor him and indeed the fact that we were able to intervene so quickly, in roughly 60 seconds, shows just how closely we were watching him," Coster said.

Prior to Friday's incident, Samsudeen was previously arrested in 2017 at Auckland Airport where police found a hunting knife and Islamic State material on him, but he was later released on bail, the Associated Press reported. In 2018, authorities found that Samsudeen had two Islamic State videos and bought another knife. After pleading guilty for breaching bail, Samsudeen spent three years in jail.

He was released from prison despite concerns that he would attack people. But Coster said that the law requires a suspect to first take action before law enforcement intervenes.

Some 30 police officers tracked Samsudeen's movements from July since his release.

"We might have an understanding of intent, and ideology, and we might have high levels of concern," Coster said. "But that is not sufficient for us to take any enforcement action."

Samsudeen belonged to a minority ethnic group, Tamil, which was targeted by Sri Lankan authorities. When he sought his refugee status, Samsudeen claimed that he and his father were kidnapped and tortured because of their political background.

The decision to grant him refugee status was backed by scars on his body and a psychologist's report that said he was a " highly distressed and damaged young man" with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, according to the Herald.

The Immigration Protection Tribunal ruling, which was obtained by the paper, said that Samsudeen was "persistently re-experiencing traumatic events."

"[The psychiatrist] believes it can only be explained in terms of traumatic experience, and she states that, in her opinion, it would be very difficult for him to have fabricated the degree of disturbance displayed during the interviews she conducted," the ruling read, according to the paper.

New Zealand police started noticing Samsudeen's behavior for the first time in 2016 after he posted graphic pictures of war violence on his Facebook account with comments supporting Islamic State attacks. Police reportedly only gave him a formal warning, but a group from the National Security Investigations started to closely monitor him afterward.

The group found Samsudeen posting anti-Western and violent images on his social media, with one Facebook comment that read: "One day I will go back to my country and I will find kiwi scums in my country ... and I will show them ... what will happen when you mess with S while I'm in their country. If you're tough in your country ... we are tougher in our country scums #payback."

While in another incident, he told someone at a mosque that he planned to join the Islamic State group in Syria, and that if authorities stopped him from leaving, he would carry out a "lone wolf" style knife attack in New Zealand, according to the Herald.

Newsweek contacted the Prime Minister's office and the Auckland High Court for comments but didn't receive a response by the time of publishing.

New Zeleand's last terrorist attack happened in Christchurch in 2019, in which a white supremacist terrorist killed 51 worshippers at a city mosque and injured 50 others.

At the time, Ardern announced a decision banning the use of all military-style weapons, some semi-automatic guns, and all assault rifles.

Ardern said on Friday that it was unclear if Samsudeen's terrorist act was a revenge attack for the Christchurch attack.

On Saturday, Samsudeen's brother Aroos said that Samsudeen has been struggling with mental health problems and wanted to impress his friends on Facebook.

"He would hang up the phone on us when we told him to forget about all the issues he was obsessed with. Then he would call us back again himself when he realized he was wrong," Aroos said, according to the AP. "Aathil was wrong again yesterday. Of course we feel very sad he could not be saved."

Updated 1:30 PM ET, with additional information.

New Zealand supermarket attacker identified
The attacker was not identified sooner because a New Zealand law prevents anyone claiming a refugee status from being identified. Above, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a press conference in Parliament on September 4 in Wellington, New Zealand.