Terrorist attacked as deportation dragged
New Zealand had been trying for years to deport an ISIS-inspired radical who went on a frenzied stabbing attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed, saying it was “frustrating” he was allowed to stay free.
The lifting of suppression orders showed the attacker, Sri Lankan Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, was served a deportation notice in April 2019 after his refugee status was revoked.
While the legal process dragged on, Samsudeen grabbed a knife off a supermarket shelf in Auckland on Friday and injured seven people, leaving three critically wounded, before he was shot dead by police who were tailing him.
Ms Ardern, who referred to Samsudeen as “the terrorist” and did not mention his name, was able to outline steps NZ had taken to try to deport him after the legal suppressions were removed late on Saturday.
Samsudeen arrived in NZ as a 22-year-old in 2011 on a student visa and was granted refugee status two years later.
In 2016, he came to the attention of the police and intelligence agencies after expressing sympathy on Facebook for terrorist attacks.
During their investigations it became evident the refugee status was fraudulently obtained and the process began to cancel his right to stay in NZ, Ms Ardern said.
The following year he was arrested at Auckland Airport, when it was suspected he was on his way to Syria, and a police search of his home had revealed a large hunting knife and “material related to ISIS propaganda”, court documents said.
Ms Ardern said deportation notices were served in April 2019.
Samsudeen, who described himself as a Tamil Muslim, appealed the deportation and told a court he faced “arrest, detention, mistreatment and torture” if sent back to Sri Lanka.
“He was still in prison at this time, and facing criminal charges,” Ms Ardern said. “For a number of reasons, the deportation appeal could not proceed until after the conclusion of the criminal trial in May 2021.”
The country’s immigration agency looked into ways of detaining Samsudeen during the appeal process through the Immigration Act, according to Ms Ardern.