AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Six people were injured in a knife attack at a supermarket in New Zealand on Friday, an outburst of violence that the prime minister labeled a “terrorist attack” that had been carried out by a “violent extremist” inspired by the Islamic State.
The suspect, a Sri Lankan national, was shot and killed by the police, officials said. He had been under constant, active surveillance at the time of the attack at the market in West Auckland, they said. The suspect was not immediately identified.
“A violent extremist undertook a terrorist attack on innocent New Zealanders in the New Lynn Countdown in Auckland,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference, referring to the supermarket.
“What happened today was despicable, it was hateful, it was wrong,” she added. “It was carried out by an individual — not a faith, not a culture, not an ethnicity, but an individual person who is gripped by ideology that is not supported here by anyone or any community. He alone carries the responsibility for these acts; let that be where the judgment falls.”
It was the first terrorist attack in the country since an Australian gunman, Brenton H. Tarrant, killed 51 people and injured 40 at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, the deadliest attack in the country’s history. Mr. Tarrant became the first convicted criminal in New Zealand’s history to be sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for release. The massacres also prompted a significant tightening of New Zealand’s gun laws.
Those injured on Friday were taken to hospitals in the Auckland area. Three were in critical condition, and one was in serious condition, said Glenn Metcalfe, an official from St. John’s Ambulance in New Zealand.
Ms. Ardern said the attack took place about 2:40 p.m. Auckland is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak driven by the more transmissible Delta variant, and it has been under a stringent lockdown, with only supermarkets and other essential businesses open.
Officials said the assault was carried out with a knife that the suspect had taken from a shelf at the supermarket.
The prime minister said the suspect, who came to New Zealand in 2011, had been known to security forces since 2016. She described him as a lone actor who had been under constant monitoring because of concerns about his ideology.
“This was a violent attack,” she said. “It was senseless, and I’m so sorry it happened.”
Surveillance teams were as close as they could possibly be at the time of the stabbings, said Andrew Coster, New Zealand’s police commissioner.
“The reality is that when you are surveilling someone on a 24/7 basis, it is not possible to be immediately next to them at all times,” Commissioner Coster said. “The staff intervened as quickly as they could, and they prevented further injury in what was a terrifying situation.”
Ms. Ardern added, “We used every element and lever in the law that was available.”
The assault on Friday has revived memories of the Christchurch attack, said Abdur Razzaq Khan, a Muslim community leader with New Zealand’s Federation of Islamic Associations.
“When we first heard about it, it resurrected the trauma that we had two years ago,” he said. “Such inhuman and vile acts don’t belong to any religion. This is a sheer act of hate.”
Since the massacres in Christchurch, the Muslim communities in New Zealand have played an active role in working with the authorities to counter terrorism in the country, he added.
“Extremism, in this particular case or any other case — we have to really root it out from the grass roots in the sense of identifying who these people are and making sure the authorities are aware of them,” he said.