Reporting from Auckland.
At least three people including the gunman are dead, and six more are confirmed as injured, in a shooting incident Thursday morning in Auckland’s downtown central business district. The incident occurred just hours before the start of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup being co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, with New Zealand and Norway set to play at Eden Park on Thursday night.
The incident took place in the immediate vicinity of Norway’s team hotel and just blocks from several hotels hosting teams participating in the World Cup. FIFA confirmed to local media that officials are safe and were not in the area at the time of the shooting. Norway and New Zealand released team statements saying that everyone from their respective delegations is safe.
Thursday’s opening match will proceed as planned, FIFA and New Zealand officials confirmed. There will be an increased police presence for the match at Eden Park.
U.S. Soccer released a statement that all players and staff are safe and will proceed with the day as planned. The U.S. women’s national team’s hotel is among several being utilized by World Cup teams within a few blocks of the incident.
New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins said in a news conference that the shooter used “a pump-action” shotgun. He entered a construction site building around 7:30 a.m. local time, when multiple gunshots were heard. Police responded to the scene and the shooter eventually contained himself inside an elevator shaft. Police then tried to engage and further shots were fired before the gunman was found dead.
Prime Minister Hipkins said there is no threat to national security and the incident is not believed to be related to any political ideology. The New Zealand Herald reported that the gunman was a 24-year-old who was serving home detention for domestic violence.
The incident took place next to the site of the FIFA Fan Festival, an area of each city which is designated for watching games and celebrating the World Cup. The Fan Festival was slated to open for the first time on Thursday at noon local time.
“The tournament will go on and tonight’s game will be played,” New Zealand minister for sport Grant Robertson said. “Police already, up until this point, have been embedded within the FIFA organizational structure as just part of the normal organization of the tournament, so there’s very close cooperation there. There are a number of teams, as you’ll be aware, who were staying in the immediate area. They are all safe and sound.”
In addition to Thursday’s opening game, multiple teams were due to travel from their base camps — including some with hotels in downtown Auckland — to the site of their first games on Friday.
The New Zealand Football Federation issued the following statement:
“New Zealand Football are shocked by the incident in Auckland CBD this morning. We can confirm that all of the Football Ferns team and staff are safe but we will not be able to comment further while details are still emerging. Please refer to New Zealand Police for further information. Preparations for the game tonight at Eden Park will continue as planned.”
Team hotels for Norway and the Philippines are located within about one city block of the incident. The Philippines, who were slated to travel to Dunedin on Thursday, said in a statement that everyone from their delegation is safe.
“Being informed about the consequences, the team’s thoughts are with those affected and their families,” Norway captain Maren Mjelde said in a team-issued statement, which continued:
“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.
“We may have to adapt if there are any instructions from the authorities.”
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