The terrorist Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen was on the authorities’ radar long before he entered a New Lynn supermarket, picked up a knife and stabbed several shoppers, leaving some of them seriously injured.
He was no stranger to the police or the courts; shortly after his frenzied attack began, he was shot dead by a member of the police special tactics group, who had been tasked with keeping him under constant surveillance after he was released from jail.
At the same time, immigration authorities were seeking to have Samsudeen stripped of his refugee status and deported, a years-long process that had yet to be concluded.
RNZ traces Samsudeen’s time in New Zealand and his interactions with immigration, police and the courts.
- October 2011: Samsudeen, a Tamil Muslim, left Sri Lanka and arrived in New Zealand on a student visa.
- November 2011: He sought refugee status.
- April 2012: Immigration New Zealand rejected Samsudeen’s refugee status application as it was found to lack credibility. He appealed.
- December 2013: The Immigration and Protection Court recognizes Samsudeen as a refugee.
- January 2014: Samsudeen applies for permanent residence. Subsequent police and security checks identified no concerns. He was granted permanent residence in April.
- April and May 2016Police formally warned Samsudeen about posting objectionable material on the Internet. It included videos and photos of graphic violence, comments advocating violent extremism, and expressions of support for the Islamic State terrorist attacks. Despite the warnings, Samsudeen did not stop and used aliases to continue posting similar material. Samsudeen was also on the radar of the Security Intelligence Service.
- May 2017: Samsudeen was arrested at Auckland airport. Two days earlier, he had bought a one-way ticket to Malaysia. He had previously told a devotee at an Auckland mosque that he wanted to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State. When the police searched his apartment, they found a large hunting knife under a mattress on the floor. They also found secure digital cards containing fundamentalist material, including propaganda videos, photographs of him posing with firearms, and firearms sales markers, crossbows, binoculars, military boots and a vest. He was charged and placed in preventive detention. These are the first set of charges.
- August 2017: The New Zealand Immigration Refugee Status Unit began a review of Samsudeen’s refugee status based on information received that he may be a security threat.
- May 2018: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asks about Samsudeen’s refugee status and deportation options.
- June 1, 2018: Samsudeen was notified that his refugee status would be canceled for fraud. The authorities believed that he had provided fraudulent documentation.
- June 29, 2018: Samsudeen pleaded guilty to representation charges of knowingly distributing restricted publications. Police dropped an offensive weapon charge in connection with his possession of the hunting knife. At the time, he had been detained for 13 months, a period that would have exceeded any sentence for the charges he faced. He was granted bail, with conditions surrounding the use of electronic devices and the Internet.
- July 2018: Samsudeen receives name suppression by Superior Court. Judge Wylie said this was because his safety would be in jeopardy if his refugee status were revoked and he was deported to Sri Lanka.
- August 7, 2018: Samsudeen searched the Internet for camouflaged pants in Hallensteins, his own name, news about his offense and “loyalty to ISIS”.
- August 8, 2018: Samsudeen bought the same model of hunting knife that the police had previously found under his mattress. It had a camouflaged holster. He arranged for the knife to be delivered to his home.
- August 9, 2018: Samsudeen was arrested again. His house was searched. On electronic devices they discovered that he had searched the Internet for “enemies of Allah,” “hunting knife,” and “Islamic State clothing.” He had also been accessing hymns and videos of the Islamic State, many of which showed violent acts. One referred to “how to kill non-Muslims.” He was charged by the police and placed in preventive detention. These are the second set of charges.
- September 2018: Samsudeen is sentenced on the first set of charges. Given the time he had spent in custody prior to his sentencing, Judge Wylie said he could not be sentenced to a prison term. Instead, he was sentenced to one year of supervision, with conditions that both the Crown and the defense agreed were appropriate. As part of its conditions, Samsudeen’s online activity would have to be monitored and he would be required to attend any directed psychological evaluation. However, Samsudeen remained in custody, in pre-trial detention on the second set of charges.
- February 2019: Samsudeen’s refugee status is canceled for fraud.
- April 2019: Samsudeen receives two deportation liability notices. One related to your criminal offense and the other related to the cancellation of your refugee status. On the latter, he filed an appeal. He could not be deported until that appeal is resolved.
- July 2020: The High Court rules that the Crown cannot bring charges against Samsudeen under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The charge alleged that Samsudeen, on or around August 9, 2018, planned or otherwise planned to cause death or serious bodily injury. But Judge Downs concluded that it was not a crime under the law. “The absence of a crime to plan or prepare a terrorist act … could be an Achilles heel,” Judge Downs said. He ordered the Crown to provide a copy of the judgment to the Attorney General, the Attorney General, and the Legal Affairs Commission.
- September 2020Samsudeen is charged with reckless indifference and assault with intent to injure after he attacked two correctional officers. He pleaded not guilty and was taken into custody. These are the third group of charges.
- May 2021Samsudeen goes to trial in Auckland High Court on the second set of charges. The jury found him guilty of two counts of possessing Islamic State propaganda promoting terrorism and one count of failing to comply with a search. He was found not guilty of possession of a knife in a public place and another count of possession of objectionable material.
- July 2021: Samsudeen is sentenced to one year of supervision, with conditions surrounding his online activity monitoring and participation in rehabilitation evaluations. At that time, he had spent three years in custody, for which a prison sentence could not be imposed. Later, the District Court granted him bail on the third set of charges.
- August 2021: Samsudeen’s hearing at the Immigration and Protection Court was originally set for September 13, but was suspended on August 26 due to alert level restrictions and problems with legal representation. No future date had been set.
- September 3, 2021Samsudeen is shot and killed by police after stabbing multiple people in Countdown LynnMall. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls it a terrorist attack.
- September 4, 2021: Suppression orders are lifted by the Superior Court, which means that Samsudeen’s name and details about his immigration status can be published.