CHRISTCHURCH: Multiple fatalities were inflicted at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday when at least one gunman, rather #WhiteTerrorist opened fire on worshippers forcing the city into lockdown as police launched a massive manhunt.
New Zealand media reported that between nine and 27 people were killed, but the death toll could not be confirmed. Police said multiple fatalities had occurred at two mosques, but it was unclear how many attackers were involved.
New Zealand police said they have detained four people and had secured a number of improvised explosive devices. “Four are in custody, three of them are men and one is a woman,” commissioner Mike Bush said, saying there were “significant” and “multiple” fatalities.
He said the suspected IEDs found attached to the attackers´ vehicles had been made safe by the military.
Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside.
Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay huddled on the floor of the mosque, the video showed.
“This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” Neither Ardern nor police gave a casualty toll.
Witnesses told media that a man dressed in a military-style, camouflage outfit, and carrying an automatic rifle had started randomly shooting people in the Al Noor mosque.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach told Reuters.
New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “as far as we know” multiple fatalities occurred at two mosques. Police had one person in custody but they were not sure if others were involved, and people should stay away from mosques.
Police said they found secured IEDs amid mosque attacks.
Police said earlier they were hunting “an active shooter” in the center of Christchurch city.
“A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.
“Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high.”
After parking his vehicle he took two guns and walked a short distance to the entrance of the mosque.
He then opened fire. Over the course of five minutes, he repeatedly shoots worshippers, leaving well over a dozen bodies in one room alone. He returned to the car during that period to change guns, and went back to the mosque to shoot anyone showing signs of life.
Police said the second mosque attacked was in the suburb of Linwood.
All Christchurch schools and council buildings were placed into lockdown.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the Al Noor mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and “there was blood everywhere”.
“Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred,” said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
“They were on the bus, which was just pulling up to the mosque when the shooting begun,” Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team, told Reuters in a message. “They are shaken but good.”
Bangladeshi cricketer Tamim Iqbal Khan said on Twitter: “Entire team got saved from active shooters!!!”
Entire team got saved from active shooters!!! Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers #christchurchMosqueAttack
— Tamim Iqbal Khan (@TamimOfficial28) March 15, 2019
“Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers,” he added.
Mushfiqar Rahim also took to social media and wrote, ” Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque…we r extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again….pray for us.”
Alhamdulillah Allah save us today while shooting in Christchurch in the mosque…we r extremely lucky…never want to see this things happen again….pray for us
— Mushfiqur Rahim (@mushfiqur15) March 15, 2019
The third cricket test was canceled, New Zealand Cricket said later.
Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed.
“Many of those who would have been affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand,” Ardern said.
“They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home … they are us. The persons who has perpetuated this violence against us … have no place in New Zealand.”
NZealand police warn of ‘distressing’ mosque shooting footage
New Zealand police warned that “extremely distressing footage” existed relating to the deadly shootings, and urged that it not be shared.
“Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” New Zealand police said in a Twitter post.
“We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”