Auckland terror attacker ‘brainwashed’ by neighbours, mother says

Armed police at Auckland's LynnMall
Armed police at Auckland's LynnMall on Friday, the day of the knife attack. Image: Marika Khabazi/RNZ

The mother of Auckland’s LynnMall shopping mall terror attacker in New Zealand says he was brainwashed by neighbours from the Middle East.

Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, a 32-year-old refugee originally from Sri Lanka, was shot dead by undercover police after stabbing six people inside Countdown in LynnMall on Friday.

His mother, Ismail Fareeda, has told a television channel in Sri Lanka that neighbours from Syria and Iraq radicalised Aathil Samsudeen when he was injured in a fall in 2016.

She said her son then started posting radical views on social media.

Fareeda said there was a change in her son after he had left Sri Lanka and settled in New Zealand in 2011.

She said her two other sons had reprimanded the 32-year-old over his radical views.

‘Heartbroken by this terrible act’
In a statement released via a lawyer and credited to Samsudeen’s brother, Aroos, his whānau said they were “heartbroken by this terrible act” and they wanted to send love and support to those who were hurt.

The statement said Samsudeen, who arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa, suffered from “political torture” and his mental health steadily declined over the years.

Samsudeen spent a lot of time on social media, it said.

“We saw his mental health got worse and worse during the last 10 years or so. He spent a lot of his time in prison and was always struggling with some court cases. When we heard that he was in prison in New Zealand, we thought it would do him some good but didn’t realise he would spend so much time there. He also had many problems in prison.”

Members of the wider family visited New Zealand in 2013.

“We love your country and your people and we know from what we have seen since the Christchurch attack that you are good people. We want to stand with you. We have lost Aathil. We don’t know what to do while our father is still very ill and doesn’t know about this situation.

Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen
The knife attacker shot dead by police, Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, as identified today in New Zealand news media after High Court suppression orders were lifted. Image: TVNZ screenshot APR

Sri Lankan government collaboration
The Sri Lankan government was promising to work with New Zealand authorities over the supermarket stabbings, AFP reported.

It had been investigating whether Samsudeen was linked to the bombings in Colombo on Easter Sunday 2019, which killed 279 people in attacks on three churches and three hotels.

The bombings were blamed on a group that pledged allegiance to the then Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A spokesperson for Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said the government there condemned the senseless violence of the west Auckland attack and would cooperate with the New Zealand authorities in any way necessary.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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