- Two dead, shooter dead, at least five injured
- Hipkins says World Cup will go ahead as planned
- Hipkins said no political or ideological motives were identified.
AUCKLAND, July 20 (Reuters) – At least two people and an armed attacker were killed and five injured in a shooting in New Zealand’s largest city on Thursday hours before the women’s soccer World Cup opener in the city.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the football tournament would go ahead as planned, adding that the shooting appeared to be an individual act and that police were not searching for anyone else in connection with the incident.
“There was no identified political or ideological motive for the shooting and therefore did not pose a national security risk,” Hipkins said in a televised press conference.
He said the security threat level in New Zealand remained unchanged despite the increased police presence in the city.
Auckland welcomed thousands of international players and tourists to the 9th Women’s World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Chief of Police Andrew Koster said one police officer and four civilians were injured in the shooting.
Koster told a news conference that the shooter had not been formally identified but was believed to be a 24-year-old man employed at the construction site where the shooting took place.
Armed with a pump-action shotgun, he moved through a firefight at a construction site. After reaching the upper floors, he was trapped inside an elevator shaft and was soon found dead after firing more shots.
The shooter was sentenced to home detention, but was exempt from on-site work.
“This person is primarily known for his history of domestic violence. There is nothing to suggest that he presented a higher level of risk than that history indicates,” Koster said.
Football teams from New Zealand, Norway, Italy, the United States, Vietnam and Portugal are known to be in the city at the time of the shooting.
“FIFA has been informed that this is a separate incident unrelated to football operations and tonight’s opening match at Eden Park will go ahead as scheduled,” FIFA said in a statement.
“Participating teams that were close to this incident are being assisted with regards to the consequences that may have occurred.”
In Thursday’s World Cup opener two games, Norway will face New Zealand in Auckland and Australia will face Ireland in Sydney.
The shooting occurred near the Norwegian team’s hotel in downtown Auckland, with several players taking to social media to report they were safe.
Norwegian captain Maren Mijelde told Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang during a police investigation: “Everything seems to be calm. We are preparing for tonight’s match as usual.”
The Italian team has delayed practice as its players are stuck in their hotels, while the US team announced that all players and staff are safe.
The US Embassy said Douglas Emhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the presidential delegation to New Zealand for the World Cup opening ceremony, is safe.
Several streets in Auckland were blocked, all ferry services into the city were cancelled, and buses were asked to divert parts of the city.
“I was a little worried at first, but I was very relieved when I saw the police everywhere,” said Maurin Mifort Paon, 18, a tourist from France.
The FIFA Fan Festival event, which was held just blocks from the shooting, has been postponed.
Oakland Mayor Wayne Brown said the shooting had nothing to do with the World Cup.
Gun violence is rare in New Zealand, but gun control was tightened in 2019 after Christchurch, the country’s worst peacetime shooting, killed 51 Muslim worshipers by a gunman.
The government has banned all military semi-automatic and other dangerous firearms.
Reported in Sydney by Renju Jose and Praveen Menon. Additional reporting by Oakland’s Amy Tennery, Eileen Wang and Nathan Flandino.Editing: Stephen Coates
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.