Gunman kills two ahead World Cup opener inNew Zealand

 A lone gunman in Auckland has killed two people hours before the first game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament hosted by New Zealand.

The shooting happened near hotels where Team Norway and other teams were staying.

The gunman was found dead after a police shootout, during which an officer was shot and wounded. Four civilians were also injured. Minister Chris Hipkins said the tournament would go ahead as scheduled.

“Clearly with the FIFA World Cup kicking off this evening, there are a lot of eyes on Auckland. The government has spoken to FIFA organizers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned”, Hipkins said.

“I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat. This appears to be the action of one individual”, he added.

The shooting jarred New Zealand, where active shooter incidents are rare, leading the country’s the main news websites and broadcasts.

Hipkins disclosed that the man was armed with a shotgun, adding that police arrived within minutes of the first emergency call and ran into harm’s way to save lives.

“These kinds of situations move fast, and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic”,  Hipkins said.

Police Commissioner, Andrew Coster disclosed that the gunman was a 24-year-old who had previously worked at the building site, and his motive appeared to be connected to his work there.

The man identified as the shooter had a history of family violence and was serving a sentence of home detention, but had an exemption to work at the lower Queen Street site, Coster said.

The shooting began at about 7:20 a.m., and police soon swarmed the area.

Coster disclosed that the shooter moved through the unfinished building firing at people, as many workers fled or hid. He then barricaded himself in an elevator shaft on the third floor, where SWAT-type officers engaged him after securing the floors above and below.

“The offender fired at police, injuring an officer, shots were exchanged and the offender was later found deceased”, he said.

Coster further disclosed that it wasn’t yet clear whether police had shot the man or he had killed himself. He said the suspected shooter didn’t have a gun license and so shouldn’t have been in possession of a firearm.

Outside, armed police officers placed an area in Auckland’s downtown on heavy lockdown, with streets cordoned off surrounding the harbor ferry terminal, which is popular with tourists. Police ordered bystanders to disperse and told people inside office buildings to shelter in place.

The shooting happened as soccer teams and fans gathered in New Zealand for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which the country is hosting jointly with Australia. The opening match is scheduled to be played in Auckland on Thursday evening, between New Zealand and Norway. Hipkins said he was considering whether he’d attend the match as planned.

Team Norway Captain, Maren Mjelde disclosed that her teammates were woken up abruptly when a helicopter began hovering outside the hotel window.

“We felt safe the whole time.  FIFA has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad. Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal for the game tonight”, Mjelde said in a statement.

Team USA disclosed that all its players and staff were safe and accounted for. It said the team was in contact with local authorities and proceeding with its daily schedule.

New Zealand banned most semi-automatic weapons in 2019, weeks after a man killed 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch during the nation’s worst mass shooting. A subsequent buyback scheme saw gun owners hand over more than 50,000 banned weapons to police.

Coster disclosed that the shotgun used in Thursday’s shooting is not on the list of banned weapons.

“I want to acknowledge that this has been a shocking and traumatic event for those people who came to work and found themselves in the middle of an armed emergency. Thankfully, many people were able to escape the building, but I know for those who hid or remained trapped, this was a terrifying experience”, Coster said.

Coster disclosed that the officer who was shot was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, had stabilized, and was expected to undergo surgery Thursday. He said the others had injuries ranging from moderate to critical. It wasn’t immediately clear if all those injured had been shot.

Officials at Eden Park, where the opening match of the FIFA tournament is taking place, said they were encouraging ticket holders to arrive early and there would be an increased security presence at the venue.

Tourism New Zealand canceled a media welcome party that was to have been held Thursday afternoon at a location within the cordoned-off area.




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