New Zealand authorities were so worried about an Islamic extremist they were following him around-the-clock and were able to shoot and kill him within 60 seconds of him unleashing a frenzied knife attack that wounded six people Friday at an Auckland supermarket. Three of the shoppers were taken to Auckland hospitals in critical condition, police said. Another was in serious condition, while two more were in moderate condition, the AP reports. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was a terror attack.
She said the man was a Sri Lankan national who was inspired by the Islamic State group and was well known to the nation's security agencies. Ardern said she had been personally briefed on the man in the past but there had been no legal reason for him to be detained. "Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him into prison, he would have been in prison," Ardern said. Extremist ideology is rare in New Zealand and Ardern said that only a tiny number of people would be subject to such intense surveillance.
The attack unfolded at about 2:40pm at a Countdown supermarket in New Zealand’s largest city. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said a police surveillance team and a specialist tactics group had followed the man from his home to the supermarket. But while they had grave ongoing concerns about the man, they had no particular reason to think he was planning an attack on Friday, Coster said. The man, who first moved to New Zealand in 2011 and had been monitored by security agencies since 2016, appeared to be going into the store to do his grocery shopping as he had in the past.
"He obtained a knife from within the store," Coster said, and when the commotion started, two police from the special tactics group rushed over. He said the man charged at the officers so they shot and killed him. He said that the man was very aware of the constant surveillance and they needed to be some distance from him for it to be effective. Authorities are confident he acted alone in the attack. Auckland is currently in a strict lockdown. Most businesses are shut and people are generally allowed to leave their homes only to buy groceries, for medical needs, or to exercise. (Read more New Zealand stories.)