At least 49 killed, 20 seriously wounded in attacks on New Zealand mosques
Friday - 15/03/2019 07:21
PM condemns 'extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence' during Friday prayers
LATEST UPDATES ON CHRISTCHURCH ATTACKS:
49 killed in attacks on Christchurch mosques.
At least 20 seriously injured. PM calls it 'one of New Zealand's darkest days.'
Police confirm finding IEDs attached to a vehicle.
Australian in his 20s charged with murder, will appear in court Saturday.
Security threat level in New Zealand raised to second-highest level.
At least 49 people are dead and 20 seriously injured in shootings at two mosques filled with worshippers during Friday prayers in what the prime minister is calling "one of New Zealand's darkest days."
A man in his 20s has been charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday, said Mike Bush, New Zealand police commissioner.
According to Australian media reports, the suspect is 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant from the city of Grafton in New South Wales, Australia.
A man claiming to be the gunman reportedly videotaped the shooting and posted it as a livestream to his now-deleted Twitter account, along with a link to an apparent anti-immigrant manifesto.
Bush said the "unprecedented, abhorrent event" is now being treated as a terrorist event.
The majority of those killed were at the MasjidAl-Noor, a mosque on Deans Avenue in the central part of the city, with the shooting occurring around 1:45 p.m. local time.
During a second shooting at the nearby Linwood Masjid Mosque, seven people were killed. One more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.
Bush, who cautioned that events were still evolving, urged people to remain vigilant and said police will continue to be a visible presence in the city and across the country.
"Three other people were apprehended," Bush said in a late-night briefing Friday. "We believe one of those persons, who was armed and was at the scene, may have had nothing to do with this incident."
He said they are still trying to work through what involvement the other two may have had. None of the people in custody were known to security officials, he said.
5/9 We are unable at this stage to provide details about matters leading up to the attacks. It is very early days and these matters will form part of the investigation.
There is an increased Police presence across Christchurch and surrounding areas.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the national security threat level in New Zealand was being raised to the second-highest level.
"It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," said Ardern, calling it an "extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence," and saying many of those affected may be migrants and refugees.
"This is not who we are," she said. "This act was not a reflection of who we are as a nation."
Watch the latest briefing by Mike Bush, New Zealand police commissioner.
Ardern praised police for their work in apprehending suspects and disarming the explosives that were attached to a car. Bush later clarified it was two IEDs on a single vehicle.
Witness saw people running in terror
Len Peneha, who lives next door to the Masjid Al-Noor, told The Associated Press he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots. He also saw people running from the mosque in terror, and a gunman flee before emergency services arrived.
Peneha said he went into the mosque to try to help: "I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque.
"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 and 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. I just don't understand it."
Peneha said the gunman was white and wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
A video that was livestreamed, apparently by the shooter, shows the attack in horrifying detail. The footage appeared to come from a camera strapped to the shooter's head.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Bush said he was "absolutely aware" of the video purporting to show the attack, and called it "very disturbing."
"It shouldn't be in the public domain and we're doing everything that we can to remove it."
Ardern said, "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 said there's "no place in New Zealand" for those behind the attacks. She said some of the victims may have been migrants or refugees to New Zealand, but were part of the community: "They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not."
Watch the prime minister's response to the attack: