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Women’s World Cup Security Heightened After Deadly Shooting in New Zealand



New Zealand police are responding to reports that a gunman has fired shots in a building in downtown Auckland. (AP/Abbie Parr)
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Security was heightened ahead of Thursday night’s opening Women’s World Cup game after a gunman killed two people at a downtown construction site in Auckland, roughly 12 hours ahead of co-host New Zealand’s match against Norway.

Norway’s team hotel was located within a short distance of the shooting, which occurred in the tourist area of the city near the harbor ferry terminal. Norway captain Maren Mjelde said teammates were awakened by a helicopter hovering outside the hotel but everyone was calm and prepared as normal for the game.

Eden Park Officials Encourage Early Arrival

Officials from Eden Park, where New Zealand had an 1-0 upset win following an opening ceremony for the tournament, had encouraged ticket holders to arrive to the stadium early. Most of the roads surrounding the stadium were closed to vehicles hours ahead of the start.

A minute of silence was observed before the start of the game in Auckland.

Details of the Shooting Incident

The shooting happened early Thursday morning at the start of rush hour in New Zealand’s largest city. The gunman was armed with a shotgun, said New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. He added police arrived within minutes of the first emergency call and ran straight into harm’s way to save the lives of others.

The gunman was found dead in an elevator, said Acting Police Superintendent Sunny Patel.

In addition to the three dead, at least five others were injured, including a police officer who was transported to the hospital in critical condition but is now listed in stable condition, the New Zealand police wrote on Twitter.

“New Zealand Football are shocked by the incident in Auckland CBD this morning,” the team said in a statement. “We can confirm that all of the Football Ferns team and staff are safe.”

Prime Minister’s Attendance and Statement

Hipkins had initially said his attendance of the opening match was “under review” after the shooting, but he was in the stands and singing the New Zealand national anthem during the opening ceremony. He visited the team in the locker room after the game to congratulate the players.

“Clearly with the FIFA World Cup kicking off this evening, there are a lot of eyes on Auckland,” Hipkins said in an earlier news conference. “The government has spoken to FIFA organizers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned. I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat. This appears to be the action of one individual.”

FIFA issued a statement saying its president, Gianni Infantino, and Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, were in constant contact with local authorities and participating teams in the vicinity.

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