New Zealand’s prime minister said a shooting that killed two people in central Auckland hours before the women’s football World Cup opener Thursday was not linked to a national security threat and the tournament will go ahead as planned.
The shooting at a building site wounded six people including police officers and left the gunman dead. It coincided with the opening day of the tournament co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins expressed shock and “deep sorrow” at a rare mass shooting in New Zealand, but said the tournament would proceed as planned.
The “assessment from officials is that there is no national security risk. There is no change to New Zealand’s national security threat level.”
“Aucklanders and those watching around the world can be assured that the police have neutralised the threat and that they are not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident,” he added.
“The government has spoken to FIFA organisers and the tournament will proceed,” he said. “New Zealanders safety, and the safety of our visitors, are our first priorities.”
A number of national soccer teams are based in New Zealand’s largest city, including the US squad, which said in a statement that all its players and staff were accounted for and safe.
“The offender has moved through the building site and continued to discharge his firearm,” police acting superintendent Sunny Patel said earlier.
“Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the male has contained himself within the elevator shaft and our staff have attempted to engage with him,” he added.
“Further shots were fired from the male and he was located deceased a short time later.”
Police said two deaths had been confirmed so far, in addition to the attacker.
Officers responded in “significant” numbers to the morning shooting and cordoned off the area, police said, also deploying a helicopter.
Local media showed images of an injured officer being helped into an ambulance.
“What has unfolded is understandably alarming and we are reassuring the public that this incident has been contained and is an isolated incident,” Patel said.
“We can also advise that this is not a national security risk.”
Police asked people to stay away while they investigated the emergency.
Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand and sweeping gun laws were introduced after the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre, in which 51 Muslim worshippers were killed and another 40 wounded.