A “violent extremist” was shot and killed by New Zealand police after he stabbed and wounded at least six people in a “terrorist attack” at a supermarket in Auckland, said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
Of the six wounded, three are critical, one is serious, and another is in a moderate condition, the St John ambulance service said in a statement to news agency Reuters.
“A violent extremist undertook a terrorist attack on innocent New Zealanders,” Ms Ardern told a briefing.
The attacker was a Sri Lankan national who had been in New Zealand for 10 years and was a “person of interest” for about five years, she said.
The man, who Ms Ardern said was inspired by Isis, was killed within 60 seconds of him launching the attack. The person was, by law, not allowed to be kept in prison, Ms Ardern said.
A video of the attack was uploaded on social media, which showed terrified shoppers at the New Lynn supermarket. “There’s someone here with a knife ... he’s got a knife. Somebody got stabbed,” one shopper can be heard saying in the video.
Other videos showed panicked shoppers rushing out of the mall, looking for cover.
A guard told shoppers to leave the mall shortly before six shots rang out.
“This was a violent attack. It was senseless,” Ms Ardern said. “And I am so sorry that it happened.”
The attack happened at about 2.40pm local time at a Countdown supermarket. The prime minister said a police team and a special tactics group were able to shoot and kill him within 60 seconds of the attack because he was under constant monitoring.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster said they had concerns about the man’s ideology and had kept very close tabs on him. Mr Coster said they followed him from his home to the supermarket on Friday. “He entered the store, as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press (AP).
“Surveillance teams were as close as they possibly could be to monitor his activity,” he added. When the commotion started, two police from the special tactics group rushed over, according to Mr Coster. The man approached police with the knife and so they shot and killed him, he said.
Auckland councillor Shane Henderson said in a tweet that he was “struggling to find the words” after the attack.
Witnesses told reporters outside the mall that they saw several people lying on the floor with stab wounds. Some shoppers attempted to help the wounded with towels and diapers, according to AP.
“Our thoughts are with the victims of this hateful attack – and with our New Zealand family,” wrote Australian senator Penny Wong.
Auckland has been on strict lockdown as it battles an outbreak of the coronavirus. People are only allowed to leave their homes to buy groceries of medicine.
“It was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith,” Ms Ardern told the press. “He alone carries the responsibility for these acts,” she said.
Legal constraints prevented her from speaking in detail about the attack, she said, adding she hoped for these constraints to be lifted soon.
New Zealand has been on alert for attacks after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019.
(With inputs from agencies)
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies