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4 people wounded by man wielding axe who attacked diners at Chinese restaurants in New Zealand

Police tape cordons off a restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, after an axe attack late Monday. Multiple people were hospitalized after a man armed with an axe began attacking diners at random at three neighboring Chinese restaurants, according to police and witnesses. (Hayden Woodward/New Zealand Herald via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A man with an axe attacked random diners at three neighboring Chinese restaurants in New Zealand, wounding four people, police and witnesses said.

Police said the man began the attack at about 9 p.m. Monday in the north Auckland suburb of Albany.

Police arrested a 24-year-old suspect at the scene and charged him with wounding, with the intention of causing grievous bodily harm. The man, a Chinese national, made a brief court appearance Tuesday. Police did not immediately offer a motive for the attack but said they had no evidence it was racially motivated.

Auckland City Hospital said Tuesday one patient from the attack remained there in a stable condition. North Shore Hospital said it had one patient with moderate injuries and a second with minor injuries, both of whom were in a stable condition, and had earlier discharged a third patient.

A diner told the New Zealand Herald newspaper he was eating dinner with a friend when the man walked in and started attacking his friend, who was seriously injured.

“I was in shock. When I realized what was happening, he tried to target me,” the man, who asked not to be named, told the Herald. “I blocked his axe with my hand. He was also trying to target my head, so I blocked the axe with my hand.”

The diner said the man with the axe chased them out of the restaurant and then turned around and walked into another restaurant.

The Herald posted an image of what appeared to be a wood-splitter style of axe lying on the sidewalk.

Surveillance footage posted by news website Stuff showed people fleeing from one of the restaurants, including one person who ran out backward holding a chair as a barricade followed closely by another person holding a weapon.

Police said they expect to file more charges against the man, who they believe acted alone. Police increased their presence in the area around the restaurants Tuesday.

“We acknowledge how frightening this incident was for those involved, and for the wider community, and we are ensuring there is support in place for both the victims and their friends and family,” Inspector Stefan Sagar said in a statement.

During his court appearance, the defendant was helped by a Chinese language interpreter. He was not required to enter a plea. He was granted temporary name suppression, a common outcome in New Zealand’s legal system.

The restaurants the man entered were Yues Dumpling Kitchen, Zhangliang Malatang and Maya Hotpot. They are among a cluster of restaurants on the street that aim to give diners low-cost options reminiscent of Chinese street food offerings.