New Zealand terror attack: 'Known extremist' shot dead after Auckland supermarket stabbings

'What happened today was despicable, it was hateful, it was wrong,' says New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

A "violent extremist", who was being monitored by authorities, stabbed and injured six people in a supermarket in New Zealand before he was shot dead by police.

The attack took place at about 2.40pm at a Countdown store at a shopping centre in the New Lynn area of Auckland on Friday.

All six people injured were taken to hospital, with three of them in a critical condition. Another is in serious condition, while two more are in moderate condition.

One bystander video taken inside the supermarket recorded the sound of 10 shots being fired in rapid succession.

Some shoppers reportedely tried to help those who were injured with towels and nappies.

Eyewitnesses dscribed seeing a man with a knife shouting “Allahu akbar” - meaning God is great.

Auckland police outside the shopping centre where the stabbings happened Credit: TVNZ

What is known about the attacker?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a terror attack carried out by a Sri Lankan national who was inspired by the so-called Islamic State group and was known to be a threat by security agencies.

She said the man, who arrived in New Zealand in 2011 and became a person of national security interest from 2016, was monitored around the clock - but, by law, he was not allowed to be kept in prison.

“Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him into prison, he would have been in prison,” Ms Ardern said.

Police and ambulance staff outside an Auckland supermarket after the terror attack Credit: Alex Burton/New Zealand Herald via AP

How did the incident unfold?

The man was under constant monitoring by a police surveillance team at the time of the incident, Ms Ardern said, which was how a special tactics group were able to shoot him within 60 seconds.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said although police had concerns about the man, they had no particular reason to think he was planning an attack on Friday. The man appeared to be going into the supermarket to do his shopping.

Mr Coster said officers kept very close tabs on him and followed him from his home to the supermarket on Friday.

He said: “He entered the store, as he had done before. He obtained a knife from within the store. Surveillance teams were as close as they possibly could be to monitor his activity.”

Mr Coster said when the attack happened, two police from the special tactics group rushed over. He said the man approached police with the knife and so they shot and killed him.

A police officer stands outside an Auckland supermarket Credit: Alex Burton/New Zealand Herald via AP

One eye witness described seeing a man shouting "Allah Akbar" before he stabbed two women in front of her.

She said: "He just started stabbing, he then went "Allah Akbar" and then I just realized oh my God, I have to run."

Another man said: "A lot of people ran up to me and said 'just run, just run, there's a guy there stabbing everyone' and then I walked to the next aisle and I saw a lady lying on the floor."

One woman described seeing the attacker stab two women in front of her. Other witnesses describe what they saw and heard

He continued: "And then I saw the guy with the knife and he was like 'Allah, Allah', with the knife up like that."

"(A man) was like 'I'm an undercover cop, get back, get back, I'm going to shoot him,' and then I just stepped back and then he start bang like five, six shots, and he was lying on the floor," the witness said.

Another woman who was queueing in the shopping centre for her Covid-19 vaccine said people "freaked out" and "ran into the pharmacy" after hearing six or seven gunshots.

A police roadblock outside the shopping centre in New Zealand Credit: TVNZ

'I am so sorry that it happened'

Prime Minister Ms Ardern said: “This was a violent attack. It was senseless. And I am so sorry that it happened."

She continued: “To everyone who was there and who witnessed such a horrific event, I can't imagine how they will be feeling in the aftermath. But thank you for coming to the aid of those who needed you when they needed you.”

Wrapping up her statement, she said: "What happened today was despicable, it was hateful, it was wrong. 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. Let that be where the judgement falls."

Ms Ardern said legal constraints prevented her from discussing everything that she wanted to about the case, but she was hoping to have those constraints lifted soon.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff tweeted urging people to “please stay safe and look out for one another”, adding: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident in New Lynn.”

Sri Lanka's government expressed shock and sadness over the attack. Its foreign ministry said in a statement: “Sri Lanka condemns this senseless violence, and stands ready to cooperate with New Zealand authorities in any way necessary."

The attack comes just over two years after New Zealand suffered dreadful terror attacks at mosques in Christchurch during Friday Prayer, with 51 people killed.

In 2019, a white supremacist gunned down worshippers at two Christchurch mosques, killing 51 people and injuring dozens.

Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since that attack, New Zealand has banned the deadliest types of guns.

Members of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, which was at the center of the mosque attacks two years ago, also condemned the attack on Friday.

Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor, said: “We stand with the victims of the horrible incident.

"We feel strongly the pain of terrorism and there are no words that can convey our condemnation of such a horrible act.”

Auckland is in a strict lockdown due to a Covid-19 outbreak. Most businesses are shut and people are only allowed to leave their homes only to buy food, for medical needs or to exercise.