Violent clashes broke out in Ireland's capital Dublin on Thursday evening, after three young children were injured in a knife attack outside a school earlier in the day.
Two adults — a woman and the suspected perpetrator of the attack — were also taken to hospital after the incident, which took place at around 1:30 p.m. local time (1330 GMT) in Parnell Square, in the city center.
Irish police initially said they were confident the incident was not terror-related and appeared to be a standalone attack.
"[Police are] satisfied from our inquiries that there is no terror-related activity... in relation to this matter. It would appear to be a standalone attack, and we need to determine the reasons behind that," Police Superintendent Liam Geraghty told reporters.
Later, police chief Drew Harris reversed course and said he had "never ruled out any possible motive for this attack." Harris added: "I'm not going to speculate any further in respect of a terrorist motive. Until we're sure what the motive is, we have to keep an open mind as to why this happened."
Riots break out as Irish youth chant anti-immigrant slogans, loot stores
Harris also warned against the spread of "misinformation" after reports that the attack was carried out by a foreign national led to "disgraceful scenes" in which protesters clashed with police, damaging police cruisers and setting buses and police vehicles on fire.
Harris said the disorderly situation, which included wanton looting and attacks on police, had been brought about by a "complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology."
Videos on social media showed large groups of mostly masked Irish males chanting anti-immigrant slogans and burning public property such as trams and city vehicles.
All public transport has been shut down in the city.
Crowds were also seen reportedly setting fire to an immigration center and breaking into a Foot Locker store to steal shoes.
Police blamed right-wing extremists for the escalating situation and told Irish public broadcaster RTE that they had called in reinforcements to gain control of the situation.
How have Irish leaders reacted?
Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee said of the day's events: "The horrific attack today in Dublin city center was an appaling crime that has shocked us all. However, the scenes we are witnessing this evening in our city center cannot and will not be tolerated. A thuggish and manipulative element must not be allowed to use an appalling tragedy to wreak havoc."
Speaking on RTE in the evening, McEntee said police had made "many arrests, there will continue to be arrests," adding, "they're thugs, they're criminals, that is exactly how they will be treated."
President Michael D. Higgins issued a statement on the attack late Thursday evening as well, calling it "horrific" and offering prayers for the victims' full recovery. Higgins said police deserved the support of the public and labeled attacks on the principle of social inclusion, "reprehensible" and deserving of "condemnation by all those who believe in the rule of law and democracy."
Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the Sinn Fein opposition party, said she was "horrified" by what had happened. "I want to send my solidarity to the families of those attacked. As a parent, I can only imagine what they are going through right now," she said.
Local lawmaker Aodhan O Riordain of the Irish Labour Party said the incident was "disturbing."
"Hope injuries are not serious but it will (be) extremely traumatising regardless for all involved," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.