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When Surveillance Turns to Termination: New Zealand Attack Has Chilling Echoes of Incident in London

© REUTERS / REUTERS TVA woman police officer outside the LynnMall in Auckland
A woman police officer outside the LynnMall in Auckland - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.09.2021
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In February 2020 Sudesh Amman was shot dead by police officers after he stabbed two people in a south London street. In September 2021 a man was shot dead by police in New Zealand after stabbing six people in a supermarket. Both had been under surveillance.
The Countdown supermarket in Auckland may be 11,000 miles from Streatham High Road in south London but the similarities between Friday’s incident and the one which led to police officers gunning down Sudesh Amman on 2 February 2020 are obvious.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said a police surveillance team and a specialist tactics group followed the suspect, a Sri Lankan national, from his home to the supermarket at around 2.40pm on Friday afternoon.
Mr Coster said while they had “ongoing concerns” about the man - who is believed to have been radicalised online - they believed he was simply shopping for groceries.
But he went on: "He entered the store, as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store. Surveillance teams were as close as they possibly could be to monitor his activity.''
​The man then shouted "Allahu Akbar (God is Great)" and began stabbing random shoppers with the knife he had just picked up.
He said two of the police officers tailing the man confronted him and when he charged at them with the knife they shot and killed him.
© Photo : Metropolitan PoliceSudesh Amman, armed with a knife, is seen running along Streatham High Road shortly before being shot by police
Sudesh Amman, armed with a knife, is seen running along Streatham High Road shortly before being shot by police - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
Sudesh Amman, armed with a knife, is seen running along Streatham High Road shortly before being shot by police
Sudesh Amman, 20, was under 24-hour surveillance by armed officers when he grabbed a 20cm kitchen knife from a shop before running out and stabbing two people in Streatham High Road, south London on 2 February 2020.
While there are differences with the Streatham attack - the Auckland attacker is not believed to have been a convicted terrorist - the similarities are shocking.
In both cases an individual who was known to pose a threat to society walked into a shop, picked up a knife and began attacking ordinary members of the public going about their everyday business.
In both cases they were eliminated within seconds.
Sudesh Amman was shot dead 62 seconds after he picked up a knife and police in New Zealand say their target was also taken out “within 60 seconds”.
​Amman was also of Sri Lankan origin, although he had never lived there.
Questions will be asked in New Zealand, like they were at the Sudesh Amman inquest, about whether the police should have taken action to remove the threat.
Rajiv Menon QC, counsel for the Amman family, asked questions at the Sudesh Amman inquest about why he had not been arrested when he bought items for his fake suicide belt two days earlier.
© Photo : Metropolitan PoliceSurveillance officers prepare to shoot knife-wielding terrorist Sudesh Amman in Streatham in February 2020
Surveillance officers prepare to shoot knife-wielding terrorist Sudesh Amman in Streatham in February 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.09.2021
Surveillance officers prepare to shoot knife-wielding terrorist Sudesh Amman in Streatham in February 2020
Giving evidence from behind a screen, a senior police officer referred to only as HA6, admitted arresting Amman for “preparing terrorist acts” was “an option.”
But he said they decided it was a better decision not to arrest him but to look at “long-term ways of disrupting him.”
Mr Menon suggested he made the “wrong call”, which HA6 denied and said they felt it was the best way to “manage the risk”.
Mr Menon said: "He stabbed two members of the public. That wasn’t managing the risk….What we know certain is that those two people wouldn’t have been stabbed if he had been arrested for preparing terrorist acts."
HA6 said in his experience if he had been arrested Amman would have been released back into the community, having convinced the authorities his purchases at Poundland were “innocuous” and then the police would have “lost their advantage” because Amman would have been more aware he was under surveillance.
New Zealand police may have made a similar call.
​The Auckland suspect was clearly a terrorist threat because of the surveillance he was under, but the authorities probably decided it was better to follow him and see if they could build a case strong enough to get him convicted of more serious offences and taken off the streets for longer.
It is always a calculated risk and one the general public are rarely made aware of.
Last month the inquest jury ruled Amman had been lawfully killed by police and they also decided Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service missed “an opportunity which may have prevented the attack” in not deciding to recall him to prison after being notified on 31 January 2020 of the purchases he had made.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Auckland attacker was “inspired” by Daesh and was well known to the police and New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), who had been monitoring him since 2016.
Ardern said she had been personally briefed on this individual in the past but there had been no legal grounds for detaining him.
”Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him into prison, he would have been in prison,'' Ardern said.
*Daesh is a terrorist organisation which is banned in Russia and many other countries
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