New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is “absolutely gutted” after a Sri Lankan immigrant who was known to local authorities injured six people in an “extremist” terror attack at an Auckland shopping centre this afternoon.
Emergency services were called to the Countdown store at LynnMall shopping centre in New Lynn, in Auckland’s west, around 2.40pm today (12.40pm AEST), after reports several people had been stabbed.
In a confrontation with the attacker, police were forced to shoot him dead on arrival.
In a press conference alongside NZ Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, Ms Ardern confirmed the attacker was a “violent extremist” terror sympathiser who had been known to authorities since 2016.
He was under heavy surveillance by specialist tactical officers due to his extremist views, and it was them who shot him dead.
Those officers had followed the man from his Glen Eden home to the supermarket in New Lynn.
Once inside, he got hold of a knife and approached officers who later shot him.
Ms Ardern said the man, a Sri Lankan national who came to New Zealand in October 2011, had previously been before the courts.
She said the law meant he could not be kept in prison, but he was being monitored “constantly”.
Suppression orders meant she could not share further details at this stage, but she was seeking further guidance from the courts on that.
Commissioner Coster said the man was acting alone, and police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the attack.
Witnesses described scenes of mass hysteria as several people were attacked before the assailant was shot.
Police said he died at the scene.
Tim, who did not want his last name used, said he saw an elderly man lying on the ground with a stab wound to his abdomen.
Another victim, a middle-aged woman, was stabbed in the shoulder, he said.
“(People were) running out, hysterically, just screaming, yelling, scared,” Tim said.
“The police came just before I was going to try and find the fella.”
Another witness, Brittany Denyer, was about to park to enter the Countdown when she said police officers ran up to her and told her to “hurry up and evacuate immediately”.
“People were panicking, and it was a gridlock trying to get out of New Lynn,” she said.
“Police and ambulances (were) everywhere.
“I was told by another police officer while I was waiting to be diverted that someone had been stabbed.
“Police cars kept arriving and people were running away from the mall trying to get out of the area.
“I am very thankful I didn’t arrive five minutes earlier as I would’ve been inside.
“It would have been so scary for anyone inside the mall.”
Multiple videos posted on social media from the incident show people shouting and fleeing the mall.
A spokesman from Kiwi Property, which owns LynnMall, said it had been advised of an incident at the Countdown.
“The matter is now in the hands of the police, and we’ll continue to provide them with our full assistance,” he said.
Great North Road in New Lynn has been cordoned off, with a tweet from Auckland Transport stating more cordons were likely.
Chemist Warehouse staff, near the supermarket, were advised by officers to stay at the back.
St John spokeswoman Dani Tucker said it was alerted at 2.40pm.
“Five ambulances, three rapid response unit and four managers have responded to the scene,” she said.
Police said the incident was still unfolding, and they would provide further information when they could.