LATEST UPDATES ON CHRISTCHURCH ATTACKS:
- Police in New Zealand say 49 people were killed in attacks on Christchurch mosques
- At least 20 people seriously injured in what PM calls ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’
- Shootings happened at 2 mosques, police confirm finding IEDs attached to vehicles
- 1 man charged with murder, others in custody
- Police still ‘pouring’ officers and resources into areas around mosques
Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that to date, one person has been charged with murder in connection with the attacks, but there are others in custody.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the violence, which left at least 20 people seriously injured.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
“This is not who we are,” she said. “This act was not a reflection of who we are as a nation.”
She said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees.
Watch New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush’s latest briefing.
Ardern praised police for their work in apprehending suspects and disarming the explosives that were attached to cars.
At an earlier briefing with reporters, Bush said that staff had taken three men and a woman into custody. Ardern gave a different number, saying three people were in custody.
The majority of those killed were at the Al Noor mosque, the city’s main mosque. At least 10 of the dead were at a mosque in the suburb of Linwood, the prime minister said.
The mosques were full of people attending Friday prayers.
The deadliest shooting occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m. local time.
Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
He said he also saw the gunman flee before emergency services arrived.
Peneha said he went into the mosque to try and help: “I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Police did not offer any specifics or identifying information about the people in custody. However, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison later confirmed that one of the people in custody is Australian.
A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left an anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions. The man said he considered it a terrorist attack.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
A video that was apparently livestreamed by the shooter shows the attack in horrifying detail. The footage appeared to come from a camera strapped to the shooters head.
In a briefing with reporters earlier in the day, Bush commented on video purporting to show the attack that was circulating online, saying he is “absolutely aware” of the footage, which he called “very disturbing.”
“It shouldn’t be in the public domain and we’re doing everything that we can to remove it.”
Ardern echoed that, saying, “We should not be perpetuating, sharing, giving any oxygen to this act of violence and the message that’s set behind it.
The prime minister called Friday “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
She said the perpetrator “has no place in New Zealand.” She said the victims, some of whom may have been migrants or even refugees to New Zealand were part of their community — “they are us,” she said. “The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”
Watch the prime minister’s initial response to the attack:
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said in a video posted on Facebook, “I would never believe that I would be standing in front of a camera and talking to the people of Christchurch about the shocking incident that has affected us all.”
She urged people to stay calm, stay inside and trust the police.
As the crisis unfolded, Christchurch schools and council buildings were under lockdown. Police were still urging caution Friday evening local time, even as some lockdowns were lifted.
“Let’s not presume that the danger is gone,” Bush said at the time, adding that police will continue to be highly visible in the neighbourhoods affected.
He also said it was not possible to assume that the attack was isolated to Christchurch, saying: “At this point in time we should never make assumptions.”
The Bangladesh cricket team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team was quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying that the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
“The players are shaken up but fine,” Villavarayen was quoted as saying.
This story originally appeared on CBC