Colombo: Sri Lankan police on Saturday named Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, a Tamil Muslim resident of Kathankudy town regarded as the hub of local Islamic radicalism in the Eastern province, as the man who injured seven people by carrying out a stabbing attack at a shopping mall in New Zealand.
Seven people were injured, three critically, after 32-year-old Samsudeen attacked shoppers at the Countdown supermarket in west Auckland's LynnMall on Friday.
The ISIS-inspired extremist was under surveillance by New Zealand police and was shot dead by officers about two minutes after the attack began.
The police said they have identified Samsudeen, a resident of Kathankudy from the eastern district of Batticaloa, as the mall attacker in Auckland. Kathankudy is regarded as the home of local Islamic radicalism. Sri Lanka's 2019 Easter Sunday attacks that killed over 270 people, including 11 Indians, were traced to have links to Kathankudy.
The Sri Lankan government then had speculated that the Easter attack might have been triggered in the response to the mosque attack carried out in Christchurch just two months earlier.
Samsudeen arrived in New Zealand in 2011 from Sri Lanka on a student visa.
A Tamil Muslim, he came seeking refugee status claiming he and his father had experienced serious problems with Sri Lankan authorities due to their political background. He claimed they had been attacked, kidnapped and tortured and said the pair were forced to go into hiding, reported New Zealand news website stuff.co.nz.
He was accepted, and his refugee status was granted on December 20, 2013, after a tribunal found he had a well-founded fear of facing harm if he returned to Sri Lanka. It also accepted he had been attacked, abducted, physically mistreated and humiliated in the past, it said.
New Zealand Police first started investigating him in March 2016 when he shared videos and pictures of graphic war-related violence, and comments advocating violent extremism. He also posted comments in support of terrorists involved in other attacks.
In 2017, he was arrested at Auckland Airport, where he was in possession of a one-way ticket for Singapore, after he told a person at an Auckland mosque he wanted to go to Syria "to fight for ISIS", the report said.
When his refugee status looked set to be revoked in 2018, Samsudeen protested that decision, saying: "I'm very afraid of returning to Sri Lanka because I'm afraid of the authorities there, and the same risks and fears [that] I had when I left my country are still there in Sri Lanka. Also, young Tamil men face serious problems in Sri Lanka.
"We face arrest, detention, mistreatment and torture as we're always under suspicions by the authorities because of the [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]," he had said.
Meanwhile, the Muslim minority civil society in Sri Lanka condemned the stabbing attack in Auckland.
"On behalf of all Sri Lankans, and Sri Lankan Muslim community in particular, we unequivocally condemn this senseless and terrible act of violence," the Sri Lanka Muslim Council said in a statement.
The Council members said they concur with the statement of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden stating that hate crimes and acts of violent extremism are not, and must not be, associated with any nationality, ethnicity, culture.
"We express our solidarity with the people of New Zealand at this moment of grief. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," it said.