Police in Iceland say they have shot and killed a man in the first-ever fatal armed police operation.

Monday’s incident was the first time police in Iceland have shot and killed someone. 

"The police regrets this incident and wishes to extend its condolences to the man's family," said National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police Haraldur Johannessen of the unprecedented incident. 

Iceland, which has a population of about 320,000, has a low crime rate and gun violence is extremely rare and its police force does not regularly carry firearms.

Police said officers were called to an apartment in the Reykjavik suburb of Arbaer when a man in his late fifties fired a shotgun from inside the flat.

Two policemen, who were not armed, were shot at when trying to enter the gunman's apartment.

Witnesses told local media that a smoke bomb was thrown into the apartment through a broken window in efforts to subdue the man.

Motives unclear

A special armed unit then entered and fired at the man, who was taken to hospital where he died.

“All available members of the police force were deployed, and they tried to subdue him, but it was not successful,'' Reykjavik Metropolitan Police Commissioner Stefan Eriksson told a press conference, according to local media website Visir.

“The man began to shoot out the window of the apartment and it was decided to take action.''

The motives of the man, who has not been named, are unclear. According to RUV, Iceland's national television station, the gunman had been making threats to his neighbours.

Shotguns for hunting are legal in Iceland. Many Icelanders believe that the country rarely sees gun violence in part because handguns are banned.

Source: Agencies