Jacinda Ardern took aim at the “violent extremist” who stabbed six people with a knife in a New Zealand supermarket on Friday, the country’s second attack in two and a half years.
The New Zealand prime minister did not hold back and described the incident as a “terrorist attack” after a Sri Lankan national wounded civilians in Auckland.
She added that she had been “absolutely gutted” to hear about the incident.
Ardern continued: “What happened today was despicable.”
She was also keen to keep blame solely on the individual responsible, saying: “It was hateful, it was wrong, it was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person.”
Ms Ardern said the attacker was “obviously a supporter of Isis ideology”, in reference to the so-called Islamic State terror group.
An affiliate of Isis recently made headlines around the world for killing more than 100 people outside Afghanistan’s Kabul airport in two suicide bombings.
New Zealand last experienced a terror attack in March 2019, when a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.
Ardern gained worldwide respect when she showed great compassion for the victims and their families of the 2019 attacks.
At the time, The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor claimed that “Ardern has become the face of her nation’s sorrow and grief and its resolve”.
The prime minister has said it was not clear if the recent attack was an act of revenge for the mosque shootings.
Even so, the stabbings have now prompted widespread questions as to why the individual was able to roam around New Zealand freely if he was under surveillance.
Ardern said: “If he had committed a criminal act that would have allowed him to be in prison, that’s where he would have been.
“Unfortunately he didn’t...instead he was being monitored constantly, constantly, and followed.”
Gamal Fouda, imam of the Al Noor mosque and main target of the 2019 attacks, told Reuters: “We are broken hearted but we are not broken again...we stand with the victims of the horrible incident.”
Friday’s attacker had been in New Zealand for a decade. He had been under constant surveillance for the last five years due to concerns about his ideology, according to the prime minister.
He was on a terror watchlist and was known to multiple agencies.
Police managed to shoot and kill the extremist 60 seconds once he initiated the brutal attack.
Hitting back at criticism over their reaction, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said officers had not been able to act more quickly because they needed to maintain a distance in order to be effective.
He said: “The reality is, that when you are surveilling someone on a 24/7 basis, it is not possible to be immediately next to them at all times.
“The staff intervened as quickly as they could and they prevented further injury in what was a terrifying situation.”
Three out of the six wounded were in critical condition. One was in a serious condition while the remaining two were in moderate condition.
The individual allegedly picked up a knife from a supermarket display before “running around like a lunatic”, eyewitness shopper Michelle Miller told the Stuff news outlet.