“This was a violent attack. It was senseless, and I am so sorry it happened,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
The attack took place at 2.40 p.m. at a Countdown supermarket at New Lynn, a southwest suburb of Auckland, and was carried out by a Sri Lankan national who was a “known threat” to New Zealand, Ardern said.
Ardern said the man was under constant monitoring because of his radical ideology, and that it was the surveillance team and special tactics group that shot and killed him, within the space of about 60 seconds of the attack starting.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the man grabbed a knife from within the store, and “when the commotion started,” two officers engaged him, shooting him when he approached them with the knife.
“I acknowledge this situation raises questions about whether police could have done more, whether police could have intervened more quickly,” Coster said. “I’m satisfied based on the information available to me that the staff involved did not only what we expect they would do in this situation, but did it with great courage.”
Details on why the attacker is known to the country’s security agencies are the subject of a suppression order by the court, Ardern said.
But she revealed that the “violent extremist” arrived in the country in 2011 and was put on a national security watch list from 2016.
“I can tell you that agencies were using every single possible means available to them to protect the New Zealand public from this individual. Every single possible means,” she said.
“It was senseless, and I’m so sorry that happened.”
Newshub reported that Ardern and Coster were forced to explain how the man, who was so closely monitored, was able to carry out an attack.
“This individual is very surveillance-conscience and surveillance teams working with an offender over an extended period of weeks need to maintain sufficient distance for that surveillance to be effective so they were as close as they possibly could be without compromising the surveillance,” Coster said.
St John confirmed that three patients were in critical condition at Auckland City Hospital. A further three patients—one in a serious condition and two in moderate conditions—were also taken to hospitals across Auckland.
Newshub reported the man yelled “Allahu Akbar” as he attacked.
Ardern said she did not want to see a backlash against any community from the incident.
“What happened today was despicable. It was hateful. It was wrong,” she said. “It was carried out by an individual, not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who was gripped by ideology that is not supported here by anyone or any community.
“He alone carries the responsibility for these acts,” she said.