April 24, 2024

Auckland Shooting: 2 Killed in New Zealand and the World Cup is about to begin

At least two people were killed and several others injured after a gunman stormed a building under construction with a shotgun in the New Zealand city of Auckland early Thursday, hours before the first soccer match of the Women’s World Cup was due to start nearby.

The gunman was also killed, police said in a post on Twitter.

New Zealand Police began receiving reports of someone firing a gun inside the construction site around 7:20 local time, police spokeswoman Anna Thompson said in an email.

Passers-by and commuters heard the volley of gunfire during the rush hour. Armed police officers and armored vehicles swarmed the area, and the authorities closed down parts of the city.

The incident happened when teams from New Zealand and Norway were due to play at Eden Park Stadium, around three miles from the site of the shooting. Several World Cup teams and many fans are staying in Auckland’s central business district, and the shooting happened very close to the Team Norway hotel and near a fan festival set up for the tournament.

The United States team, which will play its first match here against Vietnam in two days, is also staying in the area.

“Regarding the incident in downtown Auckland, all of our USWNT players and staff are held accountable and safe,” US Soccer said in a statement, referring to the acronym for the United States Women’s National Team. “Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are continuing our daily schedule.”

The shooting took place in a busy downtown area with office buildings and hotels across the street from a ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.

Police said a gunman entered the high-rise building – which is under construction and was occupied by dozens of construction workers, on lower Queen Street – and went from floor to floor shooting.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins, told a news conference that the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and that the gunman appeared to have acted alone.

Within minutes, hundreds of police officers carrying automatic weapons arrived at the site, warning people to take cover and get them out of the area. Streets were closed in a two-block area, with a police helicopter hovering overhead. The officers chased the gunman to the upper floors, and when he was there, an exchange of gunfire — audible on the street below the tower — ensued.

“When he reached the upper levels of the building, the man kept himself inside the elevator shaft and our team tried to make contact with him,” police said. “More shots were received from the man and he was found dead a short time later.”

Mr Hipkins said the gunman made his way towards the lift, where his body was later found. The gunman was not immediately identified.

Construction workers, many of whom hid in the building during the shooting, were released hours later, and police cleared the building.

Motives for the shooting and other details were not immediately available.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown said i post on Twitter: “This is a scary situation for Aucklanders as they travel to work on Thursday morning. Please stay at home, avoid traveling into the city centre.”

The Norwegian players were all in their hotel during the shoot; some were still sleeping, but local news reports said some had come down for breakfast in a dining room just off the lobby on the ground floor. As police moved to close off access to the area surrounding the shooting, security guards asked members of the Norwegian delegation to stay inside the hotel, according to the president of Norway’s soccer federation, Lise Klaveness.

“Everything is calm in the Norwegian squad,” said Halvor Lea, a spokesman for the Norwegian women’s team, in a statement. “Preparations are going as usual.”

In another statement, Maren Mjelde, the captain of the Norwegian team, said that many players probably woke up to the sound of a helicopter outside their hotel window and the emergency vehicles that came out ahead.

“We felt safe the whole time,” she said.

In New Zealand, gun ownership is relatively low and gun violence is considered rare. But in 1997, six people were killed and four others injured in the North Island town of Raurimu. And in 1990, a gunman in the town of Aramoana killed 13 people and injured three others.

Then, in March 2019, 51 people were killed in a mass shooting after a white supremacist opened fire on Muslims praying in two mosques in Christchurch.

Days later, then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced a temporary ban on most semi-automatic weapons, and began a gun buyback and amnesty program. Later that year, a total national ban on weapons was implemented.

Tariq Panja he contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia.

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