Witnesses have described their horror as they watched on while a “violent extremist” stabbed six people in a New Zealand supermarket.
The attacker, who was shot and killed by police on Friday, was inspired by the Islamic State militant group, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Onlookers said the man, who police believe was acting alone, pulled out a large knife in a Countdown in the New Lynn area of Auckland.
He then started stabbing people, leaving three in a critical condition, one in a serious condition and another in moderate condition, the St John ambulance service said.
One eyewitness said he heard the attacker, who has not been identified, shouting “Allah hu Akbar” before they started running around the store.
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Shoppers – many of them said to be aged in their 50s and 60s – then began screaming and fleeing for lives as the terrifying rampage unfolded.
The man told the Herald : “He had a knife, a pretty big knife – like I would say the size of his arm. It was very scary. It was like a mini sword, not like a full sword.
“At the beginning I thought it was a prank. Someone wanted to scare people and create some problem. It literally happened in front of me.
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“I was just buying stuff and walking toward the milk aisle, and then suddenly I heard a person shouting loudly ‘Allah hu Akbar’ and just running.
“While people were coming out I could see one lady wearing a white T-shirt completely bleeding and really panicking. People were trying to help her.”
The attacker had been a “person of interest” for about five years, Ardern said, adding that he had been killed within 60 seconds of beginning his attack in the city of Auckland.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster added: “We were doing absolutely everything possible to monitor him and indeed the fact that we were able to intervene so quickly, in roughly 60 seconds, shows just how closely we were watching him.”
New Zealand has been on alert for attacks since a white supremacist gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
Ardern, asked if the Friday attack could have been revenge for the 2019 mosque shootings, said it was not clear. The man alone who was responsible for the violence, not a faith, she said.
“It was hateful, it was wrong. It was carried out by an individual, not a faith,” Ardern said.
“He alone carries the responsibility for these acts.”
RNZ / Veronica Schmidt)
Witnesses told reporters outside the mall they had seen several people lying on the floor with stab wounds. Other said they heard gunshots as they ran out of the supermarket.
And one brave bystander was seen helping a wounded woman who had been stabbed in her right hip as the terror unfolded, wrapping her jumper around her as blood flowed.
A video posted on social media showed shoppers in the supermarket seconds after the attacker struck.
“There’s someone here with a knife … he’s got a knife,” a woman can be heard saying. “Somebody got stabbed.”
The attacker, a Sri Lankan national who had been in New Zealand for 10 years, had not committed offences that would have led to his arrest and detention up until Friday, Ardern added.