Four people are in custody after 49 people were killed and 20 more were seriously injured in shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
New Zealand Police said there had been “multiple fatalities” following what they described as a “tragic series of events” in the Canterbury region on Friday.
What has happened in Christchurch?
Officers first responded to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch at about 1.40pm local time (12.40am GMT).
Two shootings took place at two separate mosques in the city, one at Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue and another at Masjid Mosque, Linwood Avenue.
Police said they also defused a number of improvised explosive devices found on vehicles after the shootings.
All schools and council buildings were put on lockdown and members of the public were told not to go outside. The lockdown has since been lifted.
Attack ‘streamed live’
New Zealand police have warned that “extremely distressing footage” exists relating to the shooting in Christchurch and have urged that it not be shared.
A video reportedly streamed live on Facebook showed a gunman filming himself firing at worshipers inside the Al Noor mosque.
Facebook later said they had removed the video and disabled the account.
Three men and one woman are confirmed to be in police custody. A white male dressed in camouflage, army-style clothing who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant filmed himself opening fire in the Al Noor mosque.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister called the incident a terror attack, and said the suspects held extremist views, but had not been on any police watchlists.
Tarrant left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions. He said he considered it a terrorist attack.
The 28-year-old was born in Australia. He said he was of Scottish, Irish and English stock and moved to New Zealand temporarily to plan and train and then stayed there after deciding to conduct the attack.
“I have read the writings of Dylann Roof and many others, but only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik,” he wrote.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “I can confirm that the individual who was taken into custody I have been advised is an Australian-born citizen,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“As family members with our New Zealand cousins today, we grieve, we are shocked, we are appalled, we are outraged, and we stand here and condemn absolutely the attack that occurred today by an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister has confirmed 49 people dead with another 20 seriously injured in today’s attacks.
Malaysia’s High Commission in New Zealand said on Friday that one Malaysian national was injured in one of the mosque shootings, and is currently receiving treatment.
The Bangladesh cricket team was arriving for Friday prayers when the shooting occurred but all members were safe, a team coach said.
New Zealand’s ‘darkest day’
A solemn New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday the deadly mosque shootings in Christchurch had plunged the country into one of its “darkest days”.
“Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” Ardern said in an address to a shocked nation.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here,” Ardern said.
“They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”
“They should have been in a safe environment,” she said.