At least six people were injured in a stabbing attack at a supermarket in the New Zealand city of Auckland before police shot the suspect dead.
The male suspect, who was known to the government’s “multiple agencies”, was killed within one minute of beginning the attack at noon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday, adding that he had been inspired by the ISIL (ISIS) group.
Ardern said the incident was a “terror” assault.
“It was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith,” Ardern said, describing the attacker as a Sri Lankan national who arrived in New Zealand in 2011. “He alone carries the responsibility for these acts.”
Ardern said she was limited in what she could say publicly about the man, who had been under surveillance since 2016 because he was the subject of court suppression orders.
“Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him into prison, he would have been in prison,” Ardern said.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said authorities were confident the man was acting alone and there was no further danger to the community.
He said a police surveillance team and a specialist tactics group had followed the man from his home in the suburb of Glen Eden to the supermarket in New Lynn.
But while they had grave ongoing concerns about the man, they had no particular reason to think he was planning an attack, Coster said. The man appeared to be going into the store to do his grocery shopping.
“He entered the store, as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store,” Coster said. “Surveillance teams were as close as they possibly could be to monitor his activity.”
A video posted on social media showed shoppers shortly after the attacker struck.
“There’s someone here with a knife … he’s got a knife,” a woman is heard saying. “Somebody got stabbed.”
A guard asked people to leave the shopping mall shortly before about six shots rang out.
“There is still a heavy police presence in the scene at 7pm and the area is still cordoned off,” she said.
“Police forces are still investigating the incident and they will stay until late at night to piece together what exactly happened.”
Witnesses told reporters outside the mall they had seen several people lying on the floor with stab wounds. Others said they heard gunshots as they ran out of the supermarket.
Videos posted online earlier showed panicked shoppers running out of the mall and looking for cover.
New Zealand has been on alert for attacks since a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
In May, four people were stabbed in a supermarket in Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island in what was described as a random attack.
Among those to condemn the violence on Friday were members of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, which was at the centre of the mosque attacks two years ago.
“We stand with the victims of the horrible incident,” said Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor.
“We feel strongly the pain of terrorism and there are no words that can convey our condemnation of such a horrible act.”