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WARNING: Graphic content
The lone-wolf terrorist shot dead in an Auckland supermarket by police yesterday had been released on bail and was facing other charges for assaulting prison guards while in custody.
The 32-year-old man is a known Islamic State sympathiser and wounded six shoppers, three critically, during a frenzied knife attack at a Countdown in New Lynn.
After taking a knife from a supermarket shelf he was fatally shot by police 60 seconds after the attack began. Police were on the scene quickly because of a constant operation to monitor his activities by authorities, which included a surveillance team and members of the elite Special Tactics Group.
The terrorist is known only as "S" due to a 2018 suppression order, which the Crown urgently applied to the High Court last night to have revoked. Justice Edwin Wylie lifted suppression but delayed it coming into effect by 24 hours to give S' family an opportunity to seek suppression orders of their own.
Members of S' family were not notified of the attack until late last night when phoned by a lawyer.
An identical suppression order in the District Court was also lifted this morning by Judge Peter Winter and aligned with the timing of the High Court's order.
Last month the Herald revealed S had been on police's radar for several years and was considered a threat to public safety for allegedly planning an attack. The Crown had attempted to charge him under the under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 last year, but a High Court judge ruled that preparing a terrorist attack was not in itself an offence under the legislation.
He first came to the attention of authorities in 2016 for the Islamic State-related material he was posting on social media and accessing online, some of which he has been charged and convicted for. Concerns were also raised after he twice bought two large hunting knives.
The Herald can now reveal S was facing two further charges for assaulting Corrections' staff while he was in custody awaiting his High Court trial.
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He was in the community after being released on bail on July 16 by an Auckland District Court judge.
The judge was left with little to no legal options but to release S on bail, sources have told the Herald, because he had already spent years in custody on charges for possessing objectionable material, possession of an offensive weapon and failing to comply with a police search.
S was accused of assault with intent to injure and injuring with intent for the attack on the Corrections' officers. He applied for bail a little over a week after he was sentenced by the High Court to supervision on July 6.
The Crown indicated today it will ask for the assault charges against S to be withdrawn and for a stay on proceedings from the Solicitor-General.
The terrorist had been found guilty by a jury on May 26 for possessing objectionable material — two nasheeds (hymns and chants).
One of the nasheeds referenced martyrdom, featured a black-clad fighter with a machine gun, Isis flag, and lyrics advocating for Jihad and decapitation.
The other, titled "We came to fill horror everywhere", depicts men dressed in black with assault rifles, the Isis flag and a city on fire.
S was acquitted on charges for allegedly possessing a graphic video depicting a prisoner of Islamic State being decapitated and possession of an offensive weapon, a hunting knife.
He was also found guilty of failing to comply with a police search.
The hunting knife purchased by S was presented as evidence in the trial earlier this year. Photo / NZ Herald
The material was declared objectionable by the Chief Censor for promoting acts of extreme violence, cruelty and terrorism. It was only the second time the Office of Film and Literature Classification was asked to look at Isis-related material.
In his own words when giving evidence at trial, S claimed he was interested only in the centuries-old Islamic State.
According to a report prepared for his sentencing, however, S had "the means and motivation to commit violence in the community".
His year of supervision was to be spent at a West Auckland mosque.
As part of his sentence, S was barred from having an internet-capable device without the approval of a probation officer and required to surrender any devices and social media for police to check.
He was also ordered to undergo a psychological assessment.
Terrorist's internet history
S' internet history, the court heard at his trial, also revealed chilling searches.
Some of the searches had been electronically bookmarked. They included "safety and security guidelines for lone-wolf mujahideen", looking for a hunting knife, camouflage pants, Islamic State dress and New Zealand prison clothes and food.
The internet history on S' devices further revealed a booklet for Isis operatives to help them avoid detection by Western countries' security and intelligence agencies.
"How to survive in the west a mujahid guide," was another Google search.
An internet video, the trial heard, purported to provide instructions on "How to attack kuffar and how to make explosive devices". Kuffar, or kafir, is an Arabic term used to describe an infidel or non-believer.
S first came to New Zealand in October 2011 from Sri Lanka.
In 2016 police took notice of "staunchly anti-Western and violent" material being posted on his Facebook page.
There were videos and pictures depicting graphic war-related violence, comments advocating for violent extremism and support for Isis terrorists involved in the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the Brussels bombing in March 2016.
According to police, S also told a fellow worshipper at a mosque that he planned to join Isis in Syria.
In May 2017, he was detained at Auckland International Airport after booking a one-way ticket to Singapore. A search of S' apartment in Auckland found material that glorified violence, including images of him posing with an air rifle, and a large hunting knife hidden under his mattress.
S was held in custody, denied bail for more than a year, and eventually pleaded guilty to charges of distributing restricted material. Because of the length of time S had already spent in custody, he was sentenced by a High Court judge to supervision in 2018.
S did not abandon his extremist views. The day after he was released from custody — August 7, 2018 — he purchased an identical hunting knife. Counterterrorism police, who had continued surveillance on S, arrested him again, which led to his trial and sentence this year.
Another search of his apartment found a large amount of violent material, including an Islamic State video about how to kill "non-believers" in which a masked man cut a prisoner's throat and wrists.
This time, prosecutors sought to charge S under the Terrorism Suppression Act but were denied by the High Court.
In his ruling, Justice Matthew Downs said: "Terrorism is a great evil. 'Lone wolf' terrorist attacks with knives and other makeshift weapons, such as cars or trucks, are far from unheard of. Recent events in Christchurch demonstrate New Zealand should not be complacent.
"Some among us are prepared to use lethal violence for ideological, political or religious causes. The absence of an offence of planning or preparing a terrorist act ... could be an Achilles' heel."
However, the judge added: "It is not open to a Court to create an offence, whether in the guise of statutory construction or otherwise. The issue is for Parliament."
The case illustrated a flaw in New Zealand's counterterrorism powers that police and security agencies have long argued constrains their ability to keep the public safe from violent extremists — but which successive governments failed to resolve.
Since then, the Labour government has proposed new anti-terror powers.
Labour's new Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill, which passed its first reading in May, would make it a criminal offence to plan or prepare for a terrorist attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media yesterday: "We have utilised every legal and surveillance power available to us to keep people safe from this individual."