CHRISTCHURCH: Forty people were killed and 20 more were seriously injured in armed assaults on two Christchurch mosques Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” she said. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.” “Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed,” she added.
Addressing the media following the attacks, Ardern said national security threat level has been lifted from low to high. “Those in custody were not on security watch lists,” she added.
New Zealand police said they have detained three people and had secured a number of improvised explosive devices. 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.”
New Zealand 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.”
New Zealand mosque gunman was Australian right-wing ‘terrorist’: Australia PM
The gunman who killed numerous worshippers in a New Zealand mosque on Friday was a right-wing extremist with Australian citizenship, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Morrison said the shooting in Christchurch was carried out by “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist” who was an Australian-born citizen.
He declined to provide further details, saying the investigation was being led by New Zealand authorities.
Blame increasing terror attacks on Islamophobia post-9/11: PM Imran
Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed the increasing terror attacks on Islamophobia post 9/11.
“Shocked and strongly condemn the Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist attack on mosques. This reaffirms what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion. Prayers go to the victims and their families,” he tweeted.
“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam and 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim. This has been done deliberately to also demonize legitimate Muslim political struggles,” PM Imran added.
I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim. This has been done deliberately to also demonize legitimate Muslim political struggles. https://t.co/5bBREoayLz
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 15, 2019