Forty-nine people were killed and 48 were injured after unidentified gunmen opened fire at two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch city on Friday, the New Zealand Herald reported. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday morning. Two others who were arrested earlier in the day remain in custody, said Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who called the murders “abhorrent”.
The first shooting took place at the Al Noor mosque, and a second at the Linwood Masjid. One of the gunmen shot a video as he carried out the attack. As many as 41 people died at the first mosque, and seven at the other. One person died in hospital.
The armed forces entered Deyell Crescent, south of the Botanic Gardens and Al Noor Mosque following the Al Noor attack, AP reported. The street was evacuated and patrolled by armed officers.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” the New Zealand Police tweeted. “Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice. Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice.”
Prime Minister Ardern tweeted: “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us. To those in Christchurch; I encourage you to stay inside and follow the instructions of the New Zealand Police.”
She later said it was clear that “this can only be described as a terrorist attack”, which seemed “well-planned”. Those who were taken in custody had not been on any terrorism watch list, Ardern said.
Bush said multiple improvised explosive devices were attached to vehicles as part of the attack, and that the vehicles had been “made safe by the defence force”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an individual taken into custody in connection with the shooting is an Australian-born citizen, reported ABC News. Morrison condemned the attack, saying it was perpetrated by an “extremist, rightwing, violent terrorist, that has taken the lives – stolen the lives – in a vicious, murderous attack...”
The Christchurch City Council tweeted that it has decided to shut down several buildings, including the civic offices and central library. The police have advised mosques in the city to temporarily shut down.
National security agencies began a crisis meeting at the Police National Headquarters in Wellington, stuff.co.nz reported.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the attack and blamed the increasing “Islamophobia” after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh cricket team, which is on a tour of New Zealand, escaped the shooting at the mosque. ESPNCricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent Mohammad Isam posted a video to Twitter of the team rushing through Hagley Park, away from the mosque.
Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesperson Jalal Yunus said most of the team members were sent to the mosque in Christchurch and were about to go inside when the incident happened. “They are safe. But they are mentally shocked,” Yunus told AFP. “We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel.”
The test match between New Zealand and Bangladesh has been called off after the shooting, The New Zealand Herald reported.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Facebook New Zealand, Mia Garlick, said videos which appeared to show the Christchurch shootings have been taken down. New Zealand Police had advised social media users against sharing the video which purportedly showed a gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire.