The terrorist who carried out a knife attack in LynnMall on Friday may be named Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen.
Seven people were injured, three of them seriously, after Samsudeen attacked shoppers at West Auckland’s LynnMall Countdown supermarket before 3 p.m. Friday. The ISIS-inspired terrorist was under police surveillance and was shot dead by agents approximately two minutes after the attack began.
His identity could not initially be revealed due to removal orders. However, these were lifted at 11 p.m. Saturday evening by the Auckland High Court.
It can also now be revealed that Samusdeen, a Tamil Muslim who arrived in New Zealand in 2011, was granted refugee status in 2013. He claimed to have been tortured in Sri Lanka and had problems with the authorities due to his political background. He went to Aotearoa to claim refugee status.
However, in 2018 he was told it would be revoked, which Samusdeen disputed. A final decision on this had not yet been taken at the time of the attack.
In a statement on Saturday evening, the prime minister said Immigration NZ had been trying to deport him for years.
Samsudeen’s initial refugee claim was rejected in 2012, but after an appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal he won. But when investigating him years later, Immigration NZ (INZ) “became aware of information which led them to believe that the individual’s refugee status had been obtained fraudulently.”
“The process has been started to revoke her refugee status, and with it, her right to stay in New Zealand,” said Jacinda Ardern.
In February 2019, the prime minister said his refugee status had been revoked and he had been served with deportation responsibility notices. In April of the same year, he appealed his deportation while in prison to face charges. But the appeal was unable to go ahead until the trial ended in May 2021.
“In the meantime, the agencies were concerned about the risk this individual posed to the community,” Ardern said. “They also knew that he could be released from prison and that his appeal to the Tribunal, which stopped his deportation, could take some time.”
“Immigration New Zealand explored whether immigration law could allow them to detain the individual while his deportation appeal was heard. It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when legal advice came back saying it wasn’t an option.
Ardern explained that a person can only be detained under immigration law for the purpose of deportation. Legal advisers said the man was likely to be considered a “protected person” because of the status of the country he traveled from and his treatment on his return.
“Protected persons cannot be deported from New Zealand. After receiving this notice, Immigration New Zealand determined that it could not detain the individual while he was awaiting his appeal.”
At the time of the terrorist attack, his appeal was still in progress.
Ardern described it as a “frustrating process”.
“Since 2018, ministers have been asking for advice on our ability to deport this individual.
“In July of this year, I met with officials in person and expressed my concern that the law might allow someone who has fraudulently obtained their immigration status and who poses a threat to our national security. I have asked that work be undertaken to determine whether we need to amend our law, as part of our international obligations.
“Ultimately, these delays show that Immigration New Zealand sought from the outset to deport this individual and was right to do so.”
Samsudeen’s refugee status could not be reported due to the confidentiality accorded to the refugees and their claims to that status under section 151 of the Immigration Act. However, after legal arguments on Saturday, Judge Edwin Wylie ruled details could be reported.
He accepted the strong public interest in Samsudeen’s identity and said disclosure of his refugee status would not put him or anyone else, including his Sri Lankan-based family, in danger.
“In my opinion, it is difficult to see that their security is threatened by the mere disclosure of information for which confidentiality obligations are imposed by [Section 151]”said Justice Wylie.
He also said that by committing serious criminal offenses, Samsudeen gave up any confidentiality to which he may be entitled.
Lawyers representing the terrorist’s family have called for the crackdown to last another 12 hours as the man’s elderly and sick father has not yet been informed of what happened at LynnMall.
But Judge Wylie dismissed this, saying it was dealing with removal orders made before the attack, and not in connection with the LynnMall incident. As there is no criminal prosecution related to the attack, he did not have the authority to extend the removal on this basis.
The judge said he had “sympathy” for the terrorist’s family, but that the father should be told “as soon as possible”. He also noted that Samusdeen’s name had previously been published in foreign media, notably in Sri Lanka.