Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident did not appear to be a terror-related attack, for which authorities have been on alert since 2019, when a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch.
“There is nothing to suggest, from the police’s perspective, that this is what they would define as a domestic terror event,” Ardern told reporters.
Police said they had yet to formally interview or charge the alleged offender and would investigate the motive for the assault at the Countdown supermarket.
“However, on the face of what we currently know, we believe this was a random attack,” Paul Basham, commander of the Southern District, told reporters in Dunedin in a televised media conference.
Police arrived to find store shoppers had detained the attacker, Basham said. The victims are in hospital along with the alleged assailant, who is under police guard.
“This was a fast-moving and extremely traumatic event for every person in the supermarket—for the victims who were stabbed, for those who were present who tried to intervene, and those who had to flee to a place of safety,” Basham added.
Supermarket chain Countdown said it has been concerned about escalating violence toward its staff.
“We are deeply upset that customers who tried to help our team members were also injured,” the company said in a statement.
By Sonali Paul and Renju Jose