WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand has tried for years to deport the knife-wielding militant who wounded seven people at a mall in Auckland last week, the government said after it released more details on the attacker following the lifting of a court suppression order.
Court documents made public on Sunday named the attacker as Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, 32, a Tamil Muslim from Sri Lanka. He had arrived in New Zealand 10 years ago on a student visa seeking refugee status, which was granted in 2013.
Samsudeen came to the attention of the police and security services in 2016 after he expressed sympathy on Facebook for militant attacks, violent war-related videos and comments advocating violent extremism.
It was later discovered that his refugee status was fraudulently obtained, the government said in a statement, adding that the process had begun to cancel his refugee status.
Police shot dead Samsudeen, who had been convicted and imprisoned for about three years before being released in July, moments after he launched his stabbing spree on Friday.
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“In July this year I met with officials in person and expressed my concern that the law could allow someone to remain here who obtained their immigration status fraudulently and posed a threat to our national security,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“This has been a frustrating process.”
The attack by Samsudeen has led to questions about why the he was allowed to remain free if the authorities had decided he needed to be watched so closely.
Ardern vowed on Saturday to pass legislation that would criminalise planning a terror attack and tighten other counter-terrorism laws.
Samsudeen’s family issued a statement to the local New Zealand media, describing their shock on the attack.
“We are heartbroken after this terrible event,” said the statement released by his brother Aroos, carried by state broadcaster 1NEWS.
“We hope to find out with you all, what happened in Aathil’s case and what we all could have done to prevent this,” the statement said.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Richard Chang)
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